Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten covers a wide variety of global security and economic issues for NPR News. He brings to that assignment many years covering international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

Gjelten's overseas reporting experience includes stints in Mexico City as NPR's Latin America correspondent from 1986 to 1990 and in Berlin as Central Europe correspondent from 1990 to 1994. During those years, he covered the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia, as well as the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

With other NPR correspondents, Gjelten described the transitions to democracy and capitalism in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union. His reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 was the basis for his book Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege (HarperCollins), praised by the New York Times as "a chilling portrayal of a city's slow murder." He is also the author of Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View (Carnegie Corporation) and a contributor to Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (W. W. Norton).

Prior to his current assignment, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon at the moment it was hit on September 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years, visiting the island more than a dozen times. His 2008 book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking), is a unique history of modern Cuba, told through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family. The New York Times selected it as a "Notable Nonfiction Book," and the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and San Francisco Chronicle all listed it among their "Best Books of 2008."

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work. His 1992 series "From Marx to Markets," documenting the transition to market economics in Eastern Europe, won an Overseas Press Club award for "Best Business or Economic Reporting in Radio or TV." His coverage of the wars in the former Yugoslavia earned Gjelten the Overseas Press Club's Lowell Thomas Award, a George Polk Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He was part of the NPR teams that won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for Sept. 11 coverage and a George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the war in Iraq. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to reporting for NPR, Gjelten is a regular panelist on the PBS program Washington Week and serves on the editorial board of World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and a freelance writer.

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National Security
3:19 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Officials: Edward Snowden's Leaks Were Masked By Job Duties

Government officials tell NPR that Edward Snowden's job responsibilities allowed him to copy sensitive files unnoticed.
Maxim Shemetov Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 10:58 am

More than three months after Edward Snowden revealed details of NSA secret surveillance activities, intelligence officials are still assessing the fallout from the former contractor's disclosures. But they already know how the leaks happened.

"We have an extremely good idea of exactly what data he got access to and how exactly he got access to it," says the NSA's chief technology officer, Lonny Anderson.

In interviews with NPR, two government officials shared that part of the Snowden story in one of the most detailed discussions of the episode to date.

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Technology
4:55 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Firms Brace For Possible Retaliatory Cyberattacks From Syria

With the possibility of a strike on Syrian targets, U.S. firms are trying to protect themselves from cyberattacks that may follow.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 9:18 pm

The prospect of a military strike against Syria in the next few days has private U.S. firms bracing for retaliation — in cyberspace.

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National Security
4:51 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Leaked Documents Reveal Budget Breakdown Between CIA, NSA

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 6:01 pm

Details of the top secret budget of U.S. intelligence agencies have been made public — revealing not only that the nation spends more than $50 billion a year on intelligence but also some detail about how that money is spent. The Washington Post published excerpts of a 2013 budget justification obtained from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In the past, the total amount spent on intelligence has been declassified by the U.S. government. The document reveals not only which agency spends the money but also what missions are top priority.

Middle East
5:18 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Proposed Strikes Against Syria May Have Too Narrow A Purpose

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 12:33 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A possible strike on Syria could move closer to reality today.

GREENE: British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the U.K. will put a resolution before the U.N. Security Council, quote, "authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians caught up in the civil war there."

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Middle East
5:01 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Did Publicizing The Terror Alert In Yemen Help?

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 9:12 pm

The partial reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, which was the focus of a recent terror alert, suggests that the immediate threat of a terrorist attack has passed. Officials cannot be certain whether the alert disrupted planning for a possible attack, whether the threat was a bluff or whether the intelligence that led to the alert was flawed. The issuance of warnings is a specialty within the intelligence community, but the recent episode underscores how much uncertainty surrounds the field.

National Security
4:49 am
Thu August 22, 2013

FISA Court: NSA Surveillance Program Was Unconstitutional

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:43 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

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National Security
5:03 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

NSA Accused Of Repeatedly Violating Privacy Rules

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 6:22 pm

Documents released to the Washington Post by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden show the agency overstepped privacy rules.

All Tech Considered
2:57 am
Thu August 15, 2013

The Next Disaster Scenario Power Companies Are Preparing For

Part of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant in Lewiston, N.Y., is seen from the air on Aug. 14, 2003, during a massive power outage that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada.
David Duprey AP

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 8:49 am

In the 10 years since sagging power lines in Ohio sparked a blackout across much of the Northeastern United States and Canada, utility engineers say they have implemented measures to prevent another such event in the country's electric grid.

But there is one disaster scenario for which the power companies are still unprepared: a massive attack on the computer networks that underlie the U.S. electric grid.

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News
5:43 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Which Citizens Are Under More Surveillance, U.S. Or European?

Protesters demonstrate against alleged NSA surveillance in Germany during a rally in Hannover, Germany, on Saturday.
Peter Steffen AP

Originally published on Sun July 28, 2013 12:31 pm

The disclosure of of previously secret NSA surveillance programs has been met by outrage in Europe. The European Parliament even threatened to delay trade talks with the United States.

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NPR Story
5:21 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Obama Administration Caught In The Middle On Iran

Originally published on Fri July 26, 2013 7:33 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In just over a week, Iran will inaugurate a new president. Hasan Rouhani was the most moderate of the presidential candidates, and his election last month has raised hopes that Iran's isolation might end. The United States and its allies have imposed tough sanctions on Iran to block it from developing a nuclear weapon, and the outgoing government responded defiantly to that kind of pressure.

Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten on the prospects now for breaking the Iran impasse.

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National Security
5:12 am
Fri July 19, 2013

U.S. Worries NSA Leaker's Files Could Be Hacked

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 6:00 am

The Russian lawyer for NSA leaker Edward Snowden predicts his client will soon get temporary asylum in Russia. Snowden and his allies say his laptops contain files that could be highly damaging to NSA operations. Security experts say it would be challenging but by no means impossible for Russian (or Chinese) cyber technicians to gain access to the files Snowden has with him, in spite of his promises to safeguard them.

World
4:09 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

What Missile Shipment Says About Cuba-North Korea Relations

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 7:11 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And moving on now to a mystery in Panama. A North Korean ship was stopped there as it was cruising through the Panama Canal carrying military supplies from Cuba. Missile and aircraft parts were hidden beneath bags of sugar in the cargo hold. North Korea is subject to a U.N. arms embargo and the North Korean crew is said to have violently resisted an effort to inspect the ship. NPR's Tom Gjelten has the latest.

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NPR Story
4:15 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

NSA Leaks Focus New Attention On Government Contractors

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 12:36 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Edward Snowden, the man who leaked top-secret NSA documents, predicted a month ago that the U.S. government would accuse him of committing grave crimes. That comment came in a video released today by The Guardian newspaper. At the time he disclosed the secret information, Snowden was an employee of a private firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

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National Security
5:37 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Defense Officials Indicate NSA Leaks Have Had Consequences

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 7:13 am

Washington is still trying to determine how much damage has been done as a result of Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA surveillance. Snowden allegedly encrypted the files he took with him, but some officials fear Chinese or Russian intelligence services gained access to Snowden's computers.

National Security
5:25 am
Sat June 15, 2013

The Case For Surveillance: Keeping Up With Terrorist Tactics

The National Security Agency's headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.
NSA Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 4:40 pm

Since public revelations that the National Security Agency is collecting telephone records and reviewing Internet communications in the U.S. and abroad, officials have been making the case that the programs are vital. They argue that the tactics match the new ways terrorists are planning and communicating.

There was a time when America's enemies conspired face-to-face, or communicated through couriers, or by leaving messages for each other somewhere. But in the digital age, that has changed.

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National Security
5:55 am
Sat May 25, 2013

Obama Keeps Distance From Torture Debate, At Least For Now

President Obama delivers a speech on national security Thursday at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Sat May 25, 2013 2:12 pm

In his national security speech Thursday, President Obama discussed drone warfare and the Guantanamo detention camp. But a third controversial issue went largely unmentioned: the use of interrogation methods that are tantamount to torture.

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Business
6:04 am
Wed May 15, 2013

'Revolutions' Unfold Within Oil Industry

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 6:28 am

In the stodgy world of global oil, we don't hear the term revolution tossed around very often. But oil analysts are watching dramatic change take place on the supply side of the industry. Things like where the oil is coming from and who is buying it.

National Security
3:03 am
Tue May 7, 2013

U.S. Turns Up Heat On Costly Commercial Cybertheft In China

Chinese cyber-espionage is threatening U.S. economic competitiveness.
Andy Wong AP

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 1:04 pm

American companies that do business with China make good money. They also lose a lot of money there to cyberthieves, who routinely hack into the computers of the U.S. firms and steal their trade and technology secrets.

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Explosions At Boston Marathon
4:47 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

FBI Criticized For Failing To 'Connect Dots' In Boston Case

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was moved today to a prison hospital outside Boston. Officials say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is no longer cooperating with investigators. Some members of Congress, meanwhile, say the FBI should have heeded Russian warnings that Dzhokhar's elder brother had become a follower of radical Islam.

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Explosions At Boston Marathon
5:13 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Clues Suggest Boston Suspects Took A Do-It-Yourself Approach

Investigators in protective suits examine material on Boylston Street in Boston on April 18, three days after the deadly bombings. The explosive devices were relatively simple to make and law enforcement officials come across them on a regular basis, officials say.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 8:04 pm

As investigators look into the Boston Marathon bombings, one crucial question is whether the suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, acted alone or had help. The clues might be found in the bombs used.

From what is now known, it appears the brothers assembled a whole arsenal of explosives. Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau told CNN last weekend that the suspects had at least six bombs, including the two used in the attack and one thrown at police during a shootout.

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