Even his advisor at Berkeley tried to dissuade him. “Don't work on this, because you can never tell the effects of a new idea on society,” he told his stubborn student. Instead of heeding the warning, Chaum dedicated his dissertation to him, saying it was the rejection of the advisor's thinking that motivated him to finish the work.
the NSA had slapped a secrecy order on the “Phasorphone,” a voice-scrambline device created by a team of scientists led by thirty-five-year-old Seattle technician Carl Nicolai. Five months after applying for a patent for an invention that he hoped would make him a fortune, Nicolai was not only prevented from selling his invention, but also from even using it.
In June 1975, the NSF official in charge of monitoring such grants, Fred Weingarten, was warned that the NSA was the only government agency with the authority to fund research on cryptology. Weingarten was alarmed that he may have been breaking the law. So he held off awarding any new grants while he sought to clarify the matter.
What he found was interesting. Neither the NSF lawyers nor the National Security Agency itself, when pressed for documentation, could come up with any statutory justification for the agency's claim.
After all, Adleman thought, it wasn't as if this was a paper anyone would actually see. “I thought that this would be the least important paper my name would ever appear on," he recalls. So Adleman agreed to keep his name on it, if it were listed last. Meanwhile, Adi Shamir agreed with Adleman that Rivest's name should go first. This order determined the name of the algorithm itself: RSA
On October 22, 1975, Graham wrote to Merkle. An "experienced cryptography expert” had gone over his paper, she explained, and found the article unworthy of publication... the gaping flaw in the paper was its very premise: assuming that a cryptosystem could work without the secure delivery of keys. What made Merkle's idea revolutionary also made it unacceptable. “I am sorry to have to inform you that the paper is not in the mainstream of present cryptography thinking,” said the reader. “Experience shows that it is extremely dangerous to transmit key information in the clear.” Sue Graham herself took pains to emphasize that she agreed with the referee. "I read the report myself and was particularly bothered by the fact that there are no references to the literature,” she wrote. “Has anyone else ever investigated this approach[?]”