Professor, General Faculty
Associate Director, Center for National Security Law
J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1981
S.J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1996
B.A., Indiana University, 1968
Robert F. Turner holds both professional and academic doctorates from the University of Virginia School of Law. He co-founded the Center for National Security Law with Professor John Norton Moore in April 1981 and has served as its associate director since then except for two periods of government service in the 1980s and during 1994-95, when he occupied the Charles H. Stockton Chair of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. A former Army captain and veteran of two tours in Vietnam, Turner served as a research associate and public affairs fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace before spending five years in the mid-1970s as national security adviser to Senator Robert P. Griffin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has also served in the executive branch as a member of the Senior Executive Service, first in the Pentagon as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, then in the White House as Counsel to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, and at the State Department as acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs. In 1986-87, he was the first president of the congressionally established United States Institute of Peace.
A former three-term chairman of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security (and for many years editor of the ABA National Security Law Report), Turner has taught undergraduate courses at Virginia on international law, U.S. foreign policy, the Vietnam War and foreign policy and the law in what is now the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics. In additionhe has co-taught National Security Law and advanced national security law seminars on the Indochina war and on war and peace with Professor Moore at the Law School.
The author or editor of more than fifteen books and monographs (including co-editor of the Center's National Security Law, National Security Law Documents, and Legal Issues in the Struggle Against Terror) and numerous articles in law reviews and professional journals, Turner has also contributed articles to most of the major U.S. newspapers. In an op-ed published in the International Herald Tribune in September 1990, he and Professor Moore were the first to call for a war-crimes trial for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and the following month he wrote the lead story in the Washington Post Outlook Section entitled “Killing Saddam: Would It Be a Crime,” arguing that Saddam would be a lawful target during Operation Desert Storm. Eight years later, he published an op-ed in USA Today entitled “In Self-defense, U.S. has Right to Kill bin Laden.” In July 2007, he co-authored an article in the Washington Post with former U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General P.X. Kelley entitled “War Crimes and the White House” criticizing the use of unlawful interrogation techniques by the Central Intelligence Agency. On the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon he authored an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Saigon’s Fall Still Echoes Today,” noting that after the war ended Hanoi admitted it had made a decision in 1959 to open the Ho Chi Minh Trail and start sending troops, weapons, and supplies into South Vietnam to overthrow its government—just as the United States had charged. In 2010 Turner received the first “person of the year” award from SACEI, a major Vietnamese-American human rights organization.
A former distinguished lecturer at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Turner is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Academy of Political Science, the Committee on the Present Danger, and other professional organizations. He was selected for inclusion in Who’s Who in American Law less than two years after graduating from law school and Who’s Who in the World before he reached the age of forty. Dr. Turner has testified before more than a dozen different congressional committees on issues of international or constitutional law and related topics.