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Stansfield Turner

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Title: Stansfield Turner  
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Subject: Richard Helms, William J. Casey, E. Henry Knoche, Frank Snepp, Director of Central Intelligence
Collection: 1923 Births, Alumni of Exeter College, Oxford, American Christian Scientists, American Rhodes Scholars, Amherst College Alumni, Chi Psi Fraternity, Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford, Historians of the Central Intelligence Agency, Living People, People from Highland Park, Illinois, Presidents of the Naval War College, Recipients of the Bronze Star Medal, Recipients of the Legion of Merit, Recipients of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, United States Naval Academy Alumni, United States Navy Admirals, University of Maryland, College Park Faculty, Virginia Democrats
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Stansfield Turner

Stansfield Turner
Turner in June 1983
Director of Central Intelligence
In office
March 9, 1977 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by George H. W. Bush
Succeeded by William J. Casey
President of the U.S. Naval War College
In office
June 30, 1972 – August 9, 1974
Preceded by Benedict Semmes
Succeeded by Julien LeBourgeois
Personal details
Born (1923-12-01) December 1, 1923
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Amherst College
United States Naval Academy
Exeter College, Oxford
Religion Christian Scientist[1]
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1947-1978
Rank Admiral
Commands USS Horne
U.S. Second Fleet
Allied Forces Southern Europe

Stansfield M. Turner (born December 1, 1923) is a former United States Navy admiral and former Director of Central Intelligence and President of the Naval War College. He is currently a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Policy.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • Central Intelligence Agency 2.1
    • Post-CIA activities 2.2
  • Personal life 3
  • Awards and honors 4
    • Medals and ribbons 4.1
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life and education

Following graduation from NATO Southern Flank, headquartered in Naples.


Central Intelligence Agency

Under Turner's direction, the CIA emphasized technical intelligence (TECHINT) and signal intelligence (SIGINT) more than human intelligence (HUMINT). In 1979, Turner eliminated over 800 operational positions in what was called the Halloween Massacre. In a memoir/analysis published in 2005, Turner expressed regret for the dismissals stating, "In retrospect, I probably should not have effected the reductions of 820 positions at all, and certainly not the last 17.[2] The reductions applied to Vietnam-era personnel according to later-era employee and then novelist Jason Matthews.[3] ”Turner gave notable testimony to Congress revealing much of the extent of the MKULTRA program, which the CIA ran from the early 1950s to late 1960s. Reform and simplification of the intelligence community's multilayered secrecy system was one of Turner's significant initiatives, but produced no results by the time he left office.

During Turner's term as head of the CIA, he became outraged when former agent Frank Snepp published a book called Decent Interval which exposed incompetence among senior U.S. government personnel during the fall of Saigon. Turner accused Snepp of breaking the secrecy agreement required of all CIA agents, and then later was forced to admit under cross-examination that he had never read the agreement signed by Snepp.[4] Regardless, the CIA ultimately won its case against Snepp at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court forced Snepp to turn over all his profits from Decent Interval and to seek preclearance of any future writings about intelligence work for the rest of his life. The ultimate irony was that the CIA would later rely on the Snepp legal precedent in forcing Turner to seek preclearance of his own memoirs, which were highly critical of President Ronald Reagan's policies.[5]

During his tenure as Director of Central Intelligence in the early 1980s when asked on an NPR interview program about 'domestic spying', he said, "Americans are not a source of much intelligence."

In the documentary Secrets of the CIA Turner commented on the MK ULTRA project, saying, "it came to my attention early in my tenure as director, and I felt it was a warning sign that if you're not alert, things can go wrong in this organization."

On March 12, 1980, President Jimmy Carter and Turner presented Antonio J. Mendez (also known as Tony Mendez) with the CIA's Intelligence Star for his role in the exfiltration of six U.S. State Department personnel from Iran on 28 January 1980.[6]

Post-CIA activities

Upon leaving the agency, Turner became a lecturer, writer, and TV commentator, and served on the Board of Directors of several American corporations. Turner served as a member of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island's Marine Advisory Council. Turner has written several books, including Secrecy and Democracy – The CIA in Transition in 1985, 'Terrorism and Democracy' in 1991, Caging the Nuclear Genie – An American Challenge for Global Security in 1997 (a revised edition of which was published in 1999), and 2005's Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence, in which he advocates fragmenting the CIA.

Turner has been sharply critical of the Bush administration's handling of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In September 2003 he wrote that "most of the assumptions behind our invasion have been proven wrong: The intelligence did not support the imminence of a threat, the Iraqis have not broadly welcomed us as liberators, the idea that we could manage this action almost unilaterally is giving way to pleas for troops and money from other nations, the aversion to giving the U.N. a meaningful role is eroding daily, and the reluctance to get involved in nation building is being supplanted by just that." [4]

In November 2005, after Vice President Dick Cheney had lobbied against a provision to a defence Bill that Republican Senator John McCain had passed in the senate banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of all U.S. detainees, Turner was quoted as saying "I am embarrassed that the USA has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible. He [Dick Cheney] advocates torture, what else is it? I just don't understand how a man in that position can take such a stance." Cheney countered the bill went well beyond banning torture and could be interpreted by courts to ban most forms of interrogation.

Turner served on the Military Advisors Committee for the Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, whose mission was to reduce the amount of the discretionary budget going to the military by 15% and reallocate that money to education, healthcare, renewable energies, job training, and humanitarian aid programs.

Personal life

Turner currently resides in Great Falls, Virginia, and is a Christian Scientist[1]

Awards and honors

Stansfield Turner is an Honorary fellow of his University of Oxford alma mater, Exeter College, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.[7]

Medals and ribbons

Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal Legion of Merit with two gold stars Bronze Star with Combat “V”
2nd Row Joint Service Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V” Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation China Service Medal
3rd Row American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal Navy Occupation Service Medal National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star
4th Row Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Korean Presidential Unit Citation United Nations Service Medal

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b Margolick, David (August 6, 1990). "In Child Deaths, a Test for Christian Science; Faith vs. the Law; A special report.". The New York Times. p. A2.  
  2. ^ Turner, Stansfield. Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors and Secret Intelligence. (New York: Hyperion, 2005) via synopsis at cia.govBookshelf, . Retrieved 2015-06-07.
  3. ^ Stein, Jeff, "A New Spy Novelist for Vladimir Putin’s World", Newsweek, June 7, 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-07.
  4. ^ Frank Snepp, Irreparable Harm: A Firsthand Account of How One Agent Took On the CIA in an Epic Battle Over Secrecy and Free Speech (New York: Random House, 1999), 242.
  5. ^ Snepp, 359–360.
  6. ^ Mendez, Antonio J (2007-05-08). "A Classic Case of Deception". Center for the Study of Intelligence. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ NSFW language on YouTube
  • Turner, Stansfield, Secrecy and Democracy – The CIA in Transition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1985, ISBN 0-395-35573-7.

External links

  • Prepared Statement before Congress on MKULTRA
  • Testimony before Congress on MKULTRA, Part 1
  • Testimony before Congress on MKULTRA, Part 2
  • Interview on the Iranian Arms Scandal from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
Academic offices
Preceded by
Benedict Semmes
President of the Naval War College
Succeeded by
Julien LeBourgeois
Government offices
Preceded by
George H. W. Bush
Director of Central Intelligence
Succeeded by
William Casey
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