Central Intelligence Agency
An Annapolis classmate of Jimmy Carter, Turner enjoyed White House confidence, but his emphasis on technical collection methods such as signals intelligence and imagery intelligence, and his apparent dislike for, and firing of, human-source intelligence specialists made him extremely unpopular.
Under Turner's direction, the CIA emphasized IMINT and SIGINT more than HUMINT. Turner eliminated over 800 operational positions in what was called the "halloween massacre". This organizational direction is notable because his successor William Casey was seen to have a completely opposite approach, focusing much of his attention on HUMINT.
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. He also wrote a book on his experience at CIA.
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 American government personnel during the fall of Saigon. 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. 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. Turner, who was not a lawyer, did not understand the concept of precedent, and did not grasp the broader implications of pushing the U.S. Department of Justice to take an aggressive stance against Snepp.
His last Naval command was of U.S. and NATO forces in southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Among his assignments were President of the U.S. Navy War College. At various times, he commanded a mine sweeper, a destroyer, a guided-missile cruiser, a carrier task group and a fleet.
First entering Amherst College in 1941, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. He then received a Rhodes scholarship he studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University.
- Turner, Stansfield (1985). Secrecy and Democracy - The CIA in Transition. Houghton Mifflin Company.
- Snepp, Frank (1977). Decent Interval: An Insider's Account of Saigon's Indecent End. Random House.
- Snepp, Frank (1999). Irreparable Harm: A Firsthand Account of How One Agent Took On the CIA in an Epic Battle Over Secrecy and Free Speech. Random House.
- Snepp v. US, 444 U.S. 507 (Supreme Court of the United States 1980)