Central Intelligence Director Stansfield Turner carved out a cautious role for himself yesterday in the debate over a new strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT). He said he will give the Senate his estimate of U.S. ability to monitor Soviet compliance with each provision of the complex treaty, but will make no overall judgment whether the pact is verifiable.
In an appearance before an Over seas Writers club luncheon and with a statement issued at CIA, Turner drew a sharp distinction between "monitoring," which he described as an intelligence reporting function, and "verifying," which he described as a matter of policy judgment for the president and Congress.
Turner's limitation on his role, recently made known in the administration and in CIA briefings on Capitol Hill, had not previously been made public. The cautious posture appeared to be his attempt to avoid being caught in a crossfire of controversy between advocates and opponents of SALT.
An uncertain position by Turner on the U.S. ability to detect Soviet violations would be gravely damaging if not fatal to the new treaty.
High administration officials, most recently Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and presidential assistant Zbigniew Brzezinski, have said they are confident that "no significant violation" could take place undetected. On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday that "I don't think that there is any way you can legitimately say that the treaty can be verified."
Turner said so many treaty provisions are subject to checking that it is "a very meaningless question" to ask whether the treaty as a whole is verifiable.
In response to questions, the intelligence chief said the recent loss of monitoring stations in Iran has lowered the U.S. ability to check on Soviet weapons programs, but declined to say how much damage was done. He would not discuss plans to compensate for the loss of the bases. He said it is imperative to keep secret the details of SALT monitoring so the Soviets cannot counter them.
Turner charged that "improper revelations" on U.S. techniques for monitoring SALT already have caused serious damage. He did not mention them by name but aides said he was referring to disclosures of plans to utilize high-altitude U2 spy planes on flights along Soviet borders.
In other SALT related developments yesterday:
State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said substantive progress had been made toward completion of the SALT pact in a 75-minute meeting Wednesday night between Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and Soviet Ambassador Anatolity F. Dobrynin. Carter said the negotiations are "not yet finished" and another meeting is expected sometime after Vance returns in the middle of next week from a brief Easter holiday. Other officials described the SALT negotiations as extremely close to final agreement, and said that their completion is almost in sight.
Informed government sources confirmed that some Pentagon intelligence analysts believe the Soviet Union has a stored stockpile of as many as 1,000 missiles, as reported yesterday by The Washington Star. However, the sources said this judgment has not been accepted by Defense Intelligence Agency or other U.S. agencies, and that the presumed missiles are earlier models that are being replaced by the Soviets.
The Soviets reportedly use some of the older weapons for testing purposes. The United States has a stockpile of about 250 stored missiles that are used for tests and as spares.
The proposed SALT agreement would limit the number of launchers, or silos, rather than the number of missiles. In effect, it limits the number of missiles that can be deployed. Officials said the treaty also would prohibit a "rapid reload capacity" at missile sites, and that this restriction can be monitored by U.S. intelligence. CAPTION: Picture, DIRECTOR STANSFIELD TURNER . . . "verifying" is a policy judgment