Stansfield Turner

Stansfield Turner

Stansfield Turner was born in Highland Park, Illinois, on 1st December, 1923. He entered Amherst College in 1941 and graduated from United States Naval Academy in 1946. After obtaining a Rhodes scholarship he studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University.

During his service in the United States Navy Turner commanded a mine sweeper, a destroyer, a guided-missile cruiser, a carrier task group and a fleet. He also was President of the Naval War College. Admiral Stansfield Turner's last naval assignment was as Commander in Chief of NATO's Southern Flank.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed Turner as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The journalist, Edward Jay Epstein, has pointed out that: "Although Turner had had little previous experience in intelligence, he viewed it simply as a problem of assessing data... he assumed that he could bring the CIA, and American intelligence, to the same standard of operational efficiency he had brought the ships under his command. He quickly found, however, that the CIA was a far more complex and elusive entity than he had expected.... Not only did he view such secrecy as irrational, he began to suspect that it cloaked a wide range of unethical activities. He became especially concerned with abuses in the espionage division."

Turner discovered that President Richard Nixon and the CIA had been involved in the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the elected leader of Chile. "Complementing the CIA effort, the US government exerted economic pressure on Chile, again to no avail. A second approach, entirely under CIA auspices, encouraged a military coup. President Richard Nixon directed that neither the Departments of State and Defense nor the US Ambassador to Chile be informed of this undertaking."

Turner left the post after the defeat of Jimmy Carter in 1980. After leaving office he worked as a lecturer, writer and TV commentator and is a director of several American corporations. Books by Turner include Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition (1985), Terrorism and Democracy (1991), Caging the Nuclear Genie: An American Challenge for Global Security (1997), Spy Stories (2003) and Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors and Secret Intelligence (2006).

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Stansfield Turner, Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition (1985)

The use of moles is a longstanding tradition in intelligence. Back in biblical days the King of Syria asked whether there was a spy inside his own camp when Elisha, using spiritual insight, was predicting his moves to the King of Israel. Moles, those who spy against their own country, like agents, have diverse motivations. Often it s money; perhaps it is an ideological sympathy with the other country's way of life and disdain of one's own. Our British and German allies have had a rash of apparently ideologically motivated moles since World War II. Several, who defected to Moscow when they became suspect, were especially damaging because they had operated at high levels for prolonged periods.

Although our record is better, it is not perfect. William H Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell were employees of the National Security Agency who became moles for the Soviets. They fled to the Soviet Union when they came under suspicion in 1960. We surmise by their willingness to flee that they were ideologically committed to spying for the Soviets. Other moles who we knew operated from inside were two U.S. Army sergeants also assigned to the National Security Agency. They committed suicide in the mid 1960s just before being arrested for spying. Whether their motivation was ideology or, more likely, simply money is not clear.

There have been two well-publicized cases of CIA officers defecting, though both had left the Agency before doing so. Philip Agee had such personal and financial problems that he was having difficulty playing his CIA undercover role adequately and resigned from the CIA in 1968. In his letter of resignation Agee expressed his admiration for the CIA and his regret at having to leave. He even hoped he might be able to come back some day But, deeper in debt and with other emotional problems, he ended up in Cuba. We assume that he was brainwashed. By 1975 Agee had published a revealing and derogatory book on the CIA and begun lashing out at his former employer, primarily by making public the names of those fellow case officers whom he could remember. We believe he also passed on to the Cubans whatever

other secrets he recalled. This seems to be a case of the Cubans' taking advantage of Agee's financial and emotional vulnerabilities. Both they and the Soviets have exploited him fully. Whether he was won over ideologically or was simply taken in by the flattery of becoming a well-known figure is difficult to assess. He has skirted the fringes of existing U.S. espionage law, and because that law is antiquated, whether Agee could actually be convicted is unclear. He remains abroad so as not to bring that to a test.

(2) Stansfield Turner, Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition (1985)

Exactly one year after these hearings on drug experimentation, the CIA was back in the press for another error of the past. This time it was the prolonged incarceration of a Soviet defector, Yuri Nosenko, who came to the United States in 1964, a few months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Nosenko came to public attention in 1978, when a special committee was set up in the House of Representatives to study the assassination again. Nosenko had been a KGB officer during the time that Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had lived in the Soviet Union, from 1959 to 1962. When Nosenko first arrived in the United States, he was extensively debriefed by the intelligence agencies. He was especially interrogated about any connection between Oswald and the KGB. He contended that the KGB had paid no attention to Oswald. Now, in 1978, this special House committee wanted to review Nosenko's testimony on that issue. This led to an airing of the disgraceful way the CIA had attempted to determine whether Nosenko was telling the truth.

It was the job of the counterintelligence branch under James Jesus Angleton (whom Schlesinger had mentioned to me warily) to check on whether a defector was truly defecting or pretending to defect in order to spy on the United States. Angleton concluded that since Oswald had worked on the U-2 spy plane when he was in the US Marine Corps, it was unlikely that the KGB would have overlooked him entirely when he was in the Soviet Union. There was, then, cause to be suspicious of Nosenko's story about Oswald. It appeared to Angleton that the Soviets might have sent Nosenko to plant a story that would absolve them of any complicity with Oswald in the Kennedy assassination. Angleton's suspicions were heightened by an earlier Soviet defector, Anatoli Golitsyn, who claimed he knew Nosenko was a double agent. In Nosenko's favor, if he were a genuine defector, was that his knowledge of Soviet intelligence operations would have been more current than Golitsyn's, making him more valuable to us than Golitsyn.

(3) Edward Jay Epstein, Who Killed the CIA? The Confessions of Stansfield Turner (October, 1985)

Although Turner had had little previous experience in intelligence, he viewed it simply as a problem of assessing data, or, as he described it to his son, nothing more than "bean' counting." Accepting the position of "chief bean counter," he assumed that he could bring the CIA, and American intelligence, to the same standard of operational efficiency he had brought the ships under his command. The four-year effort to achieve this goal is the subject of his book, Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition.

He quickly found, however, that the CIA was a far more complex and elusive entity than he had expected. To begin with, the acting CIA Director, Henry Knoche, rather than behaving like a ship's "executive officer," surprised Turner by refusing his "captain's" first order: a request that Knoche accompany him to meetings with congressional leaders. As far as Turner was concerned, this was insubordination (and Knoche's days were numbered). When he met with other senior executives of the CIA at a series of dinners, he found "a disturbing lack of specificity and clarity" in their answers. On the other hand, he found the written CIA reports presented to him "too long and detailed to be useful." He notes that "my first encounters with the CIA did not convey either the feeling of a warm welcome or a sense of great competence." This assessment that led to the retirement of many of these senior officers.

Turner was further frustrated by the system of Secrecy that kept vital intelligence hermetically contained in bureaucratic "compartments" within the CIA. Not only did he view such secrecy as irrational, he began to suspect that it cloaked a wide range of unethical activities. He became especially concerned with abuses in the espionage division, which he discovered was heavily overstaffed with case officers-some of whom, on the pretext of seeing agents abroad, were disbursing large sums in "expenses" to themselves, keeping mistresses, and doing business with international arms dealers. Aside from such petty corruption, Turner feared that these compartmentalized espionage operations could enmesh the entire CIA in a devastating scandal. The potential for such a "disgrace," as he puts it, was made manifest to him by a single traumatic case that occurred in the 1960's, one which he harks back to throughout his book, and which he uses to justify eliminating the essential core of the CIA's espionage service.

The villain of this case, as Turner describes it, is James Jesus Angleton, who was chief of the CIA's counterintelligence staff from 1954 to 1974; the victim was Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who began collaborating, with the CIA in 1962 and then defected to the United States in 1964, and who claimed to have read all the KGB files on Lee Harvey Oswald. The crime was the imprisonment of Nosenko, which, according to Turner, was "a travesty of the rights of the individual under the law." It all began in 1964, after Nosenko arrived in the United States. Turner states that Angleton "decided that Nosenko was a double agent, and set out to force him to confess. . . . When he would not give in to normal interrogation, Angleton's team set out to break the man psychologically. A small prison was built, expressly for him."

(4) Stansfield Turner, Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition (1985)

Immediately following World War II, Iran had become a testing ground in the cold war struggle between the Soviet bloc and the Western democracies. Mohammed Mossadegh's accession to the prime ministership in 1951 was viewed in Washington; and London as a threat. Mossadegh was more anti-Shah than procommunist, but he became increasingly dependent on the communists. Two of the major power elements in Iran, the clergy: and the merchants of the bazaar, were still supporting the Shah.

This left Mossadegh dependent on the masses. Only the communists were able to rally them on his behalf. The more Mossadegh maneuvered against the Shah, the more isolated he became from the noncommunists. In May 1951 Mossadegh nationalized British oil interests in Iran. Later, when the British felt he was vulnerable, they urged the United States to join in an effort to topple him. We agreed.

The CIA swung into action by attempting to persuade the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh, which was his constitutional prerogative. But the Shah was uncertain whether he could survive the public protests that might result. It took some time and numerous emissaries to persuade him to adopt this course, but he did dismiss Mossadegh, early in August 1953. Mossadegh's supporters, largely from the left, took to the streets and demonstrated. The situation became so tense that the Shah briefly left the country. Meanwhile, the CIA encouraged the merchants and Muslim clergy to organize counterdemonstrations. Using both persuasion and bribery, the bazaar people brought onto the streets enough demonstrators to force Mossadegh's demonstrators to back down. As the tide turned, the CIA urged its contacts in the army to come down on the side of the Shah. When they did, the CIA helped bring together a more friendly government, which was waiting in the wings. The Shah appointed General Fazlollah Zahedi as Prime Minister, and Mossadegh was finished. During the entire operation the CIA employed very few people and not much money. The main point, though, is that conditions inside Iran were ripe for a change. The Mossadegh government's political base was weak and was susceptible to being toppled. The CIA simply gave it the final push.

The Agency pulled off still another successful political action the following year. A prototype of the Castro revolution of 1956-1959 was developing in Guatemala under Jacobo Arbenz. The CIA was directed to prevent Arbenz from consolidating his communist-oriented regime. It did so by convincing the Guatemalans that a "popular rebellion" was sweeping the country in support of Carlos Castillo Armas, an anticommunist army colonel then in exile. The CIA supplied Armas with enough arms for a ragtag army of fewer than two hundred men plus a few old bomber and fighter aircraft, most of them flown by mercenaries.

On D-Day, June 18, 1954, a CIA radio station, masquerading as the rebels' station, broadcast word that Colonel Armas had invaded from Honduras. It continued to give reports of the movement of a supposed five-thousand-man force toward the capital. A bomber dropped a single bomb on a parade field in the capital, without loss of life. A day and a half later, as the nearly imaginary invasion force was reported by its own radio broadcasts to be nearing Guatemala City, Arbenz resigned. Armas and his few men were flown to the outskirts of the city and marched in triumphantly. Again, this favorable political outcome required only a small effort, and, again, the government that was overthrown was so weak that only a little push was needed.

The public inevitably learned that the CIA was behind these decisive political actions in Iran and Guatemala. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a political campaign speech in Seattle, boasted of the Iranian operation as an indication of his administration's dynamism and prowess. Such publicity began to raise concerns, especially in the Congress, about how many covert actions were being carried out and under whose control they were. And then the Congress and the public began to learn about covert efforts that were not very successful.

The most adverse exposure was a series of revelations about more than ten years of CIA interference in Chile, from 1963 to 1973. This was one of the most massive campaigns in U.S. intelligence annals. The earliest effort was an attempt to shape the outcome of the 1964 presidential election in Chile, when the CIA underwrote more than half of the expenses of the Christian Democratic Party's campaign. This support was directed at defeating the communist candidate, Salvador Allende. It was probably not known to the Christian Democratic candidate, Eduardo Frei. In

(5) Stansfield Turner, Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition (1985)

The most adverse exposure was a series of revelations about more than ten years of CIA interference in Chile, from 1963 to 1973. This was one of the most massive campaigns in US intelligence annals. The earliest effort was an attempt to shape the outcome of the 1964 presidential election in Chile, when the CIA underwrote more than half of the expenses of the Christian Democratic Party's campaign. This support was directed at defeating the communist candidate, Salvador Allende. It was probably not known to the Christian Democratic candidate, Eduardo Frei. In addition to funding Frei, the CIA waged an extensive anticommunist propaganda campaign, using posters, the radio, films, pamphlets, and the press, to convince the Chileans that Allende and communism would bring to their country Soviet militarism and Cuban brutality. As part of this campaign, hundreds of thousands of copies of an anticommunist pastoral letter of Pope Pius XI were distributed. Frei won handily, but allegations of CIA involvement seeped out.

As a result, the CIA was reluctant to play as large a role in the next Chilean presidential election, in 1970. Not only was its role smaller; it did not support a specific candidate. The effort was directed strictly against Allende and was based primarily on propaganda, employing virtually all Chilean media and some of the international press as well. The program failed when Allende won a plurality, though not a majority, of the popular vote.

Under Chilean electoral law, that threw the choice to a joint session of the legislature some seven weeks later. At the direction of the White House, the CIA moved to prevent the selection and inauguration of Allende. It attempted to induce his political opponents to manipulate the legislative election up to and including a political coup. Some 726 articles, broadcasts, editorials, and similar items were sponsored in the United States and Chile, and many briefings were given to the press. One of those, to Time magazine, reversed the magazine's attitude toward Allende. The overall effort failed, however, because of the unwillingness of the appropriate Chilean politicians to tamper with the constitutional process.

Complementing the CIA effort, the US government exerted economic pressure on Chile, again to no avail. A second approach, entirely under CIA auspices, encouraged a military coup.

President Richard Nixon directed that neither the Departments of State and Defense nor the US Ambassador to Chile be informed of this undertaking. During a disorganized coup attempt that took place on October 22, the Chief of Staff of the Chilean Army was murdered. The CIA had originally encouraged the group responsible, but sensing that this group was likely to get out of control, the Agency had withdrawn its support a week earlier.

Allende was installed as President on November 2. Over the next three years, until 1973, the National Security Council authorized the CIA to expend some $7 million covertly to oppose Allende with propaganda, financial support for anti-Allende media in Chile, and funding for private organizations opposed to Allende. Other agencies of the US government applied economic and political pressure. On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military staged a coup in which Allende died, reportedly by suicide. The CIA did not sponsor this coup, but how much its encouragement of the 1970 coup and its continued liaison with the Chilean military encouraged the action is honestly difficult to assess. With Allende gone, the decade-long covert action program was phased out.

More was at stake, though, than covert action in Chile. The coup-related deaths in both 1970 and 1973 and the exposure of the role of the United States in helping to topple a democratically elected government, albeit a Marxist one, brought intense scrutiny to the ethics of using covert action to change the political complexion of other countries. As a result, such covert action came to a near halt by the mid 1970s.