Stansfield Turner, a Navy admiral and Rhodes Scholar who was Director of Central Intelligence under President Jimmy Carter, died on Jan. 18 at home in Seattle, Washington. He was 94, APA reports quoting Reuters.
His death was confirmed by his secretary, Pat Moynihan, who did not report the cause.
Carter signed an executive order in 1978 giving Turner authority over all U.S. intelligence agencies. He had an office in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House and personally briefed the president frequently.
Turner did not hesitate to use the power Carter had given him, stressing the importance of employing new satellite and other technology in collecting intelligence, rather than the riskier business of recruiting human sources.
His October 1977 reorganization and downsizing of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, which oversaw the collection of human intelligence and ran covert operations, was dubbed the “Halloween Massacre”.
While members of the CIA’s clandestine service considered him an outsider, he took office on the heels of congressional investigations of CIA misdeeds and the end of the Vietnam War.
Also not forgotten or forgiven was an investigation one of his aides launched into the lunch-time drinking habits of CIA officers.
Turner also took Panamanian General Manuel Noriega off his $100,000-retainer on the CIA payroll, although other forces in the Carter administration sought to protect him.
Turner was CIA director during the 1979-1980 Iran hostage crisis and gave an insider’s view of Carter’s handling of the 444-day confrontation in his book “Terrorism and Democracy.”
He generated some controversy when he admitted publicly in the late 1970s to having used a psychic to try to locate an aircraft that had crashed in Zaire and could not be found by spy satellites.
In 1980, he wrote in a memo to the incoming Republicans that the CIA could not “withstand another scandal.” When it was returned to him he found a member of President Ronald Reagan’s team had written in the margin: “Too liberal, afraid of political controversy.”
Later, Turner was a critic of the George W. Bush administration’s overhaul of U.S. intelligence agencies, which included the creation of a new post, director of national intelligence, to oversee all 15 agencies.
He also criticized the Bush administration’s reliance on faulty or distorted intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which later proved to be non-existent, to justify the U.S. invasion of the country in March 2003.
An adviser to Democratic Sen. John Kerry when he ran against Bush in the 2004 presidential election, Turner was not shy about saying there had been “an intelligence failure” on Iraq.
He signed a statement issued in June 2004 by 27 retired diplomats, military and other government officials that said Bush led the United States into an ill-planned Iraq war that weakened U.S. security.
“Thirty years ago, we reacted in exactly the opposite direction, establishing congressional and executive controls to rein in powerful DCIs (directors of central intelligence) and prevent them from overstepping legal and ethical bounds, as they were accused of doing in the 1950s and 1960s,” he wrote.
When later that month Bush nominated Porter Goss, a Florida congressman, to replace George Tenet as CIA director, Turner said: “This is the worst nomination in the history of the job.”