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NSA belatedly recognizes six 'silent sentinels'


During the years her husband worked at the supersecret National Security Agency, Ruth Tevis knew next to nothing about what he did.

Yesterday, she rose from her seat and posed for photographers after NSA director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden called Charles C. Tevis a giant in code-breaking and inducted him and five others into the agency's Hall of Honor.

Ruth Tevis, two sons and two grandchildren had flown from California to accept the honor.

"I didn't know what he did because he couldn't tell us," she said after the ceremony. "I just knew he was very special, and now people everywhere are telling us the same thing.

"Of course, we love hearing those things."

NSA code-breakers have long labored in obscurity, the crowning achievements of their careers often hidden even from family. So in 1999, the NSA built a Hall of Honor, inside the National Cryptologic Museum just outside the agency's Fort Meade headquarters, to recognize its heavy hitters.

Only those retired for more than 15 years are eligible for consideration, and in most cases the honorees have long since passed away.

In a short speech yesterday, Hayden called Tevis and the five others the "silent sentinels" whose "talent and intellectual brilliance enabled our nation to overcome incredible challenges."

The agency honored:

Richard Leibler, 88, a mathematician whose theoretical work helped code-breakers unlock Soviet KGB codes.

Also honored were:

Tevis, who developed a spy satellite system that tracks missile and space-ship launches.

Capt. Thomas H. Dyer, whose success in cracking crucial Japanese codes during World War II allowed U.S. submarines to strike targets with greater accuracy.

Mitford M. Mathews Jr., who modernized the way computers process radar signals.

Julia Ward, who founded a government spy library called Central Reference and later became deputy division chief of the NSA's Liaison and Foreign Operations Section.

Norman Wild, who spoke six languages and helped develop a Chinese-English dictionary that remains the most widely used of its kind in intelligence circles.

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