Admiral Daniel J. Murphy

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The Independent Online

Daniel Joseph Murphy, naval officer and public servant: born New York 1922; Deputy Director, Central Intelligence, CIA 1976-77; Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy 1977-80; Chief of Staff to the Vice-President 1981-85; married (three sons, one daughter); died Rockville, Maryland 21 September 2001.

Daniel J. Murphy was a four-star admiral who served in the United States Navy for 37 years before serving as chief of staff to the then Vice-President George Bush.

He flew anti-submarine patrols over the North Atlantic in the Second World War and held a number of important blue-water commands in the navy. In the 1960s he commanded an aircraft carrier and during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and the Cyprus crisis of 1974 he commanded the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. (His son Vice-Admiral Daniel J. Murphy also commanded the Sixth Fleet, from 1998 to 2000.) He was also an accomplished military bureaucrat who played an insider role in Washington and at the CIA headquarters across the Potomac river in Langley. He was Military Secretary to two Republican Defense Secretaries, Melvin Laird and Elliot Richardson.

Murphy was close to Bush, whom he served both at the CIA when Bush was Director of Central Intelligence in the Ford Administration, and as his chief of staff when Bush was Vice-President in the Reagan Administration. At that period, from 1981 to 1985, he was in charge of the Reagan Administration's efforts to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean. He set up a military-style control centre in southern Florida to curb the flow of marijuana and cocaine into the US.

In late 1987, after his official retirement, he made a mysterious visit to the Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega. Some accounts of the mission suggest that he was passing a message to Noriega that the US would not be as tough on him as previous contacts had suggested. At any rate, Murphy's task was to extricate the US from the embarrassment caused by the fact that Noriega, a US intelligence asset, was about to be put on trial for drug smuggling in a Florida court.

After his retirement in 1985, Murphy had begun a third career in public relations and business. He was vice-chairman of the powerful New York and Washington lobbying and public-relations firm Hill & Knowlton, and managing director of its London subsidiary. In recent years he was involved in a number of controversial lobbying activities. He was chairman and chief executive of Growth and Development Corporation Inc. GDC describes itself as an "integrated technology company", but its executives include a number of veterans of intelligence agencies and the State Department.

He was also a director of a US company called the Non Proliferation Trust Inc, which in spite of its benevolent-sounding name proposes to dump large quantities of spent nuclear fuel at several sites in Russia. NPT is a non-profit organisation, owned by three US charitable trusts. But its board of directors includes a remarkable galaxy of senior figures from the US nuclear and intelligence establishment, including, as well as Murphy, William Webster, a former head of both the CIA and the FBI, General P.X. Kelley, former Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and Admiral Bruce DeMars, former head of the US nuclear submarine fleet.

According to environmental newsletters, these exceptionally powerful figures from the secret world in Washington are involved with a number of Russian oligarchs in a scheme by which the official Russian nuclear agency, Minatom, would import more than 20,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel to be buried in remote parts of Russia, including the Kola peninsula and the island of Novaya Zemlya. Estimates of the prospective revenue vary widely, but one estimate, by Greenpeace, is that the total revenue could amount to as much as $21bn, of which half would be profit. The venture is explicitly directed against the plans of British Nuclear Fuels, and other private companies.

In 2000 Murphy was mentioned in connection with a political funding scandal. A Chinese entrepreneur, David Chang, was accused of contributing $11,000 illegally to the campaign of Senator Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey. Murphy turned out to be the chairman of the company, Bright & Bright, through which the questionable donation was made.

Although Torricelli is a Democrat, Murphy's connections were mainly with Republicans, and his personal political views were rather conservative. He was widely quoted as saying that it would "cost American lives" if the American bombing range at Vieques in Puerto Rico were closed down.

Godfrey Hodgson

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