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Adm. Stansfield Turner, who led CIA through a major overhaul, dies at 94

An Oxford-educated Rhodes scholar, Adm. Turner was long considered one of the Navy’s sharpest analytical minds. He worked to modernize and reoganize the CIA, drawing sharp criticism. He died in Seattle on Thursday.

Retired Navy Adm. Stansfield Turner, the iconoclastic director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the late 1970s who significantly reorganized its clandestine ranks and helped usher in a new technological age at the agency, died Thursday, Jan. 18, at his home in Seattle. He was 94.

His secretary, Pat Moynihan, confirmed the death but did not disclose the cause.

An Oxford-educated Rhodes scholar, Adm. Turner was long considered to be one of the Navy’s sharpest analytical minds and brashly confident leaders. He was a four-star admiral and commander of NATO forces in Southern Europe when he was tapped in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter, a Naval Academy classmate, to lead the U.S. intelligence community.

As director of central intelligence during the entire Carter administration, Adm. Turner had an office in the Old Executive Office Building — next to the White House — and he met the president frequently for one-on-one briefings.

He became the most powerful director of central intelligence in history when Carter signed an executive order in 1978 that gave Adm. Turner authority over the budget of most of the U.S. spy agencies.

With his new mandate, Adm. Turner emphasized the advantages of using satellite imagery, electronic intercepts and sophisticated eavesdropping devices — technology still widely used by the CIA today.

“He felt that staying on the cutting edge of technology was important because of the vast amount of intelligence these devices could gather,” William Webster, who served as director of central intelligence from 1987 to 1991, said in an interview.

While leading the CIA, Adm. Turner dissolved several long-term clandestine operations that he deemed too risky and declined to approve…

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