Stansfield Turner


Turner, Stansfield. Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence. New York: Hyperion Books, 2005.

Clark comment: Beyond its ridiculous title, Admiral Turner's survey of the relationships between Presidents and their DCIs is relatively brief, reads easily, and is filled with insights from the perspective of one who has been there. It is not necessary to agree with Turner's take on the history of the DCIs and their presidents, nor with his view of what needs to be done, to acknowledge the importance of his thoughts on such matters.

DKR, AFIO WIN 34-05 (6 Sep. 2005), notes that President Carter's DCI believes that "very few presidents worked well with their DCIs. Relationships were often severely strained over matters of politics, personality and loyalty.... In Turner's view, the difficulties in relations between presidents and DCIs led directly to the agency failing to prevent 9/11 and its faulty views on Saddam Hussein’s WMD program."

For Peake, Studies 50.1 (Mar. 2006), this as "a very interesting book." The former DCI "has given us an insightful, top-down look at the relationships between all heads of American intelligence from William Donovan to George Tenet and the presidents they served." He "is unexpectedly candid in discussing" his tenure as DCI. The admiral "takes no glee in the fact that most of his recommendations" for increasing the DCI's authority to manage the Intelligence Community "were echoed in the 9/11 Commission Report.... In the end, Turner suggests that breaking up the CIA ... would be best for the nation.... There is historical food for thought and discussion here."

Hutchinson, IJI&C 19.3 (Fall 2006), finds that "[t]he two most prominent issues in Turner's book are his continuing distrust of the CIA's Directorate of Operations and his strong emphasis upon increasing the authority of the DCI, now the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), to match the responsibilities of the office." To Singley, DIJ 16.1 (2007), this work "must be given high marks overall for the information on the foundations" of the American Intelligence Community.

[CIA/00s/Gen & DCIs/Gen]

Turner, Stansfield. "Intelligence for a New World Order." Foreign Affairs 70, no. 4 (Fall 1991): 150-166.

[CIA/DCIs/Turner; Reform]

Turner, Stansfield. "Reforming Intelligence." Christian Science Monitor, 19 Feb. 2003, 9.

The former DCI endorses the concept of a newly empowered DCI/DNI, noting that "it is only common sense that when intelligence activities ... are spread across 14 semiautonomous agencies, some single individual ought to be placed in charge." He adds, however, that "subordinating military intelligence requirements to those of the DNI will not be an easy task."

Turner also believes that the U.S. Intelligence Community "is unnecessarily large and unwieldy. It should be drastically reduced in size so as to encourage greater exchange of highly sensitive data and close teamwork. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard ... do not need to be part of the larger, strategic intelligence community -- nor do the Treasury Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency."

[CIA/DCIs/Turner; Reform/00s/03]

Turner, Stansfield. Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. JK468I6T87

Halpern, IJI&C 1.1, argues that Turner holds "simplistic views of espionage, counterintelligence, and covert action ... [with] little understanding or appreciation ... that people, and their handling, are the essence of intelligence.... [He] had little appreciation for the people, the organization, the history, or the activities of the service he headed and did not take the time to learn." The book constitutes a "defense by Turner of his efforts as DCI.... [O]ne should not be too logical in examining his recommendations on organization, or take them too seriously."

Clark comment: This is an overly harsh assessment of Stansfield Turner the person (as opposed to Stansfield Turner the DCI). I do not argue that Admiral Turner was the best possible match for the job of DCI. However, I am not sure who would have been at the juncture when he assumed office, given the attitude toward intelligence that his boss brought to his job. With regard to Halpern's views of Turner's recommendations on organization, a review of the literature on "reorganization" of the CIA, which has become so prevalent in the 1990s, certainly does not cast Turner's thoughts on the matter in a particularly negative light.

[CIA/DCIs/Turner; CIA/Memoirs; GenPostwar/70s/Iran]

Turner, Stansfield. Terrorism and Democracy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Charters, I&NS 9.3, sees this book as a "combination of insider memoir, policy critique, and policy prescription." However, it is "not a comprehensive attempt to explore the fundamental issues arising from the challenge of political terrorism." Of the book's 28 chapters, 17 are devoted to the Iran hostage crisis. "The portrait of the president is hardly flattering: an indecisive man given to procrastination.... The chapters covering the Reagan era, nine in all, are by far the weaker components of the book.... Scholars of intelligence and terrorism ... will find no new insights in this book."

Rosenfeld, WPNWE, 10-16 Jun. 1991, sees Turner's work differently, calling it "a tersely written, personally unsparing and otherwise exceptionally valuable study of how the United States has handled and should handle incidents of international terrorism."

[CIA/DCIs/Turner; CIA/Memoirs; GenPostwar/80s/Iran/HostageRescue; Terrorism]

Turner, Stansfield, and George Thibault. "Intelligence: The Right Rules." Foreign Policy 48 (Fall 1982): 122-138.

Lowenthal notes that this article is "[s]omewhat dated, but useful for viewing attitudinal differences between successive administrations."

[CIA/DCIs/Turner; GenPostwar/80s]

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