Stansfield Turner RIP: CIA director who tried to clean up after Angleton

Stansfield Turner, a Navy admiral who sought to reform the CIA in the wake of scandals generated by counterintelligence chief James Angleton, has died at age 91.

Turner was controversial within the agency because he curbed covert operations and demanded the agency cut ties with known human rights abusers. This made him unpopular with operations officers but it was the right thing to do.

From Rhees Shapiro’s obituary in the Washington Post.

“Adm. Turner made a concerted effort to salvage his reputation at the agency. In his 1985 memoir, “Secrecy and Democracy,” he wrote that the agency he inherited was existing in the culture of fear created by James J. Angleton, the longtime head of the CIA’s counterintelligence group of mole hunters. Adm. Turner wrote that Angleton’s investigations targeted CIA employees arbitrarily and ruined the careers of honest employees.”

In 1980, Turner helped arrange for Congress to approve legislation that allowed him to compensate generously CIA employees and retirees whose careers were sidelined by Angleton.

The CIA’s reckoning with Angleton’s reign also began under Turner.In 1978, senior officer Cleveland Cram was assigned to write a history of the Counterintelligence Staff with damning results for Angleton.

I recently told Cram’s story in The Intercept: “Wilderness of Mirrors: The complex legacy of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton.”

Also worth reading: Tim Weiner’s obituary in the New York Times






Turner, notes the New York Times.

1 thought on “Stansfield Turner RIP: CIA director who tried to clean up after Angleton”

  1. I met Admiral Turner on a couple of occasions (he was friends with my late father-in-law – a Navy and Rhodes Scholar connection). No revelations from CIA days, but he told an illuminating anecdote about bearding Donald Rumsfeld during Rummy’s first tenure as Secretary of Defense in the 1970’s (Rumsfeld had mowed the Turner’s lawn when he was a kid). The Navy’s budget was being drawn up and Rumsfeld was rubber stamping all the requests. Turner went in and told him the last thing the Navy needed was yet another aircraft carrier…..Anyway, he did what was needed for the CIA when he was Director.

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