138. Memorandum for the Record by Director of Central Intelligence Turner1


  • Conversation with Dr. Brzezinski, 9 January 1980 [portion marking not declassified]

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the hostage crisis.]

4. I then delivered my paper on possible resolution of the hostage issue.2 I emphasized that the main line of action in it that was somewhat [Page 364] different was an approach to Muslim authorities. I pointed out that I had orally raised this with Secretary Vance just after New Year’s. I mentioned the two points in the memo that [less than 1 line not declassified] had both said similar things.3 Dr. Brzezinski generally agreed with this but asked how we identified the leaders we should approach. I said that we could not really identify them; we should have a shotgun approach and send somebody like Hal Saunders on a major tour to explain:

a. Our estimate of what happened in Afghanistan;

b. Our policy of patience with respect to Iran and the hostages; and

c. The fact that there were limits on our patience and that military action might eventually ensue.

Dr. Brzezinski asked me to be ready to raise this at the SCC in the morning.4 [portion marking not declassified]

5. With respect to the hostages, I also recommended that we renew the public relations campaign that he had once organized whereby a major US figure tackled a different topic almost every day. I said access to the hostages was a very important one at this time and one that we should not have let drop completely. He agreed with me and again asked that I be ready to raise this in the SCC tomorrow morning. I also stressed the importance of getting access to the prisoners by any group of people in order to gain more intelligence about their location. [portion marking not declassified]

6. I then reviewed [1 line not declassified] the collection effort we had made against the hostages and their environment [less than 1 line not declassified].

7. With respect to the rescue operation, I told him I thought a 50 percent probability of success was optimistic. I thought the use of the carrier was the only way to improve the surprise element. If we were going to do that, we should start flying carrier aircraft sorties up into the Gulf now and then in a short time send the carrier a little way into the Gulf, withdraw it, and then a number of days before any effort send it all the way up in the Gulf so as not to tip our hand. I further said that I thought the 25th was too early a date and that the plan around Naim was too fuzzy and they needed more time to sort that one out properly. He asked me to get together with Dave Jones and [Page 365] talk about the carrier plan and see if I could get them working on it. [portion marking not declassified]

8. I asked if we had a plan as to what we were going to do if there were executions. He indicated yes—bomb. I said I hoped that they had really thought that one out; I didn’t think it was a good response. My preference would be:

a. Mining;

b. Alert and mobilization efforts for deployment of a ground force to the area—something that couldn’t happen for some time but would be a very clear threat;

c. I said I thought that bombing had no great advantages in terms of doing damage and putting pressure on Iran, and it would highly inflame Muslim world opinion against us. (I’d like at some meeting of a small group to get someone to do (quickly) a paper on what we see as the alternative responses to execution of any hostages and their pros and cons.)

Dr. Brzezinski asked whether I had any intimation that this was a more likely prospect. I said only the FBI intelligence report of yesterday which had not come through.5 [portion marking not declassified]

Stansfield Turner
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 95M01183R: Policy Files (1977–1981), Box 1, Folder 3: DCI Turner—Eyes Only Files—Memos and Meetings with Various Officials and Subjects. Top Secret; [handling restrictions not declassified].
  2. Paper prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence, “The Hostage Situation,” January 9. Turner wrote that early release was unlikely, that Khomeini held the key to their release, and that economic pressure would have a negative effect on the situation. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 30, Iran 1/1/80–1/10/80)
  3. [Names not declassified] agreed with Turner’s position that the United States should try to influence Khomeini through Islamic leaders chosen by a “shotgun approach.” (Ibid.)
  4. Turner raised the issue at the January 11 SCC meeting. Powell stated his agreement with Turner, and Aaron offered to put together a small interagency working group under the NSC Staff to examine themes and issues highlighting the U.S. public posture. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 18, SCC Meeting #249 held 1/11/80)
  5. Not found.