Through four decades of public service, Jonathan “Jon” Darby ’83 has brought international terrorists to justice, advanced U.S. national security interests, and worked to protect America and its allies. His major in political science/international relations and concentration in Russian at Carleton launched him into the Washington, D.C., intelligence community as he was hired at the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1983. He then learned Polish and Hungarian, working in central Europe before returning to Washington and eventually rising to the NSA’s Director of Operations, responsible for all U.S. signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations, including those related to nation-states such as China and Russia, as well as transnational issues ranging from international terrorism and organized crime to global health and climate change.
Darby was involved in or led several of the most significant intelligence operations in U.S. history, including the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Balkan` Wars in the 1990s, combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the elimination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, U.S. election influence threats in 2018 and 2020, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and the elimination of Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2022, to name a few. He retired later in 2022 and continues to live in Perry Hall, Maryland.
Darby has earned numerous accolades, including two Presidential Meritorious Executive Awards and two Distinguished Civilian Service Awards. As one nominator writes, “our nation is more secure because of Jon Darby.”