For the third consecutive year, the National Security Agency inducted into its Hall of Honor yesterday cryptologists who played a significant role in the spy agency's history.
The four honorees, whose work included the creation of mathematical models that protected U.S. communications during the Cold War and linguistic concepts that are used in every language-testing program in the United States, joined 11 cryptographic giants celebrated on the wall at the National Cryptologic Museum.
While much of their work will remain classified for decades - even their plaques are unusually vague - the agency's director, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, said honoring the cryptologists can give the public a much-needed look into what the agency is doing behind its iron gates.
For the first time, three of the honorees - Mahlon E. Doyle, Howard C. Barlow and John E. Morrison - are living, a break with the agency's practice of honoring only those who are deceased. The fourth honoree, the agency's foremost linguist, Sydney Jaffe, died in 1972 after working for more than three decades for the agency.
"It's hard for us to talk about what we do," Hayden said after a ceremony unveiling the plaques. "It's easier to talk about the past and give people an appreciation for what the agency has done.
"This agency has a wonderful heritage that we want to build on," he said. "There is a lot of our past that we want to preserve, like our values. It means an awful lot to be able to honor these individuals."
Doyle, a crypto-mathematician who joined one of the agency's predecessors in 1949, was a pioneer in the use of mathematics to break a new kind of coding device, called an electronic key generator. Early in his career he discovered techniques that agency officials say laid the groundwork for "significant" exploitations of other countries' codes for decades and protected those in the United States, most notably during the Cold War.
Morrison's largest contribution was the establishment in 1972 of the National (Signals Intelligence) Operations Center at NSA that pulled all of NSA's spying and eavesdropping power into one central location. Barlow was honored for his insights into management and engineering during the Vietnam War and Cold War, most notably for forging relationships with allies of the United States to share eavesdropping capabilities.
Jaffe, one of the agency's most respected linguists, who established standards of learning and testing still used at NSA and throughout the country, founded in the 1960s the Crypto-Linguistic Association, which helped end the relative isolation of many of the agency's groups of linguists. He was promoted to chief of the Language and Linguistics Division before his death in 1972.
Yesterday, his wife, Annette Jaffe, said her husband would be stunned to know that the work he did in the utmost secrecy was displayed in any fashion on a wall for all to read.