Martin Kaste

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy, as well as news from the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to general assignment reporting in the U.S., Kaste has contributed to NPR News coverage of major world events, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 uprising in Libya.

Kaste has reported on the government's warrant-less wiretapping practices as well as the data-collection and analysis that go on behind the scenes in social media and other new media. His privacy reporting was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 United States v. Jones ruling concerning GPS tracking.

Before moving to the West Coast, Kaste spent five years as NPR's reporter in South America. He covered the drug wars in Colombia, the financial meltdown in Argentina, the rise of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the fall of Haiti's president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Throughout this assignment, Kaste covered the overthrow of five presidents in five years.

Prior to joining NPR in 2000, Kaste was a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul for seven years.

Kaste is a graduate of Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota.

There is still only sketchy information available about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' recent experience in Afghanistan, but five years ago in Iraq, he was considered an excellent and upbeat soldier.

Bales is suspected of killing 16 unarmed Afghan civilians last Sunday. He has yet to be charged, and his civilian lawyers say they will meet with him at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to learn the facts of the case.

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The American soldier who allegedly shot and killed 16 men, women and children in two Afghan villages was from an Army base outside Tacoma, Washington. The Army/Air Force installation, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is one of the biggest in the military.

It's also, as NPR's Martin Kaste reports, one of the most troubled.

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pulled ahead of his rivals in Washington State's presidential straw poll on Saturday, with more than one-third of the votes. Romney finished well ahead of Ron Paul, who himself squeaked past Rick Santorum by just over 500 votes. Newt Gingrich had to settle for about one vote in 10.

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The next big day for Republican presidential hopefuls is Super Tuesday. But on the way to Tuesday, the candidates are making stops in Washington state. Republican caucuses there are set for tomorrow morning.

And as NPR's Martin Kaste reports, with the fight for the nomination still tight, for once the caucuses in Washington state may actually mean something to the presidential race.

Mandatory DNA collection is fast becoming routine in the American criminal justice system. In many jurisdictions, just being arrested can mean having to submit a genetic sample to the national database. Federal law enforcement and 26 states now permit various forms of pre-conviction DNA sampling and more states are poised to follow suit.

In the Citizens United Case in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled corporations and unions have a constitutional right to spend unlimited money on political ads. State courts are expected to follow that principle. But in December, Montana's high court refused to go along. It argued Montana's history and demography make it different enough to deserve an exemption from the federal ruling.

Washington may soon become the seventh state to legalize gay marriage. Lawmakers passed the bill Wednesday, and it has the governor's support.

Before it takes effect, though, it's likely to face a referendum challenge in November. Same-sex marriage will be on the ballot in a handful of states this year, and supporters have yet to win a statewide vote.

The 'Sanctity Of Marriage'

President Obama is feeling election-year pressure on the pending decision over the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans say the Canadian project would provide the U.S. with oil and new jobs, but environmentalists want him to block it. They say Alberta's oil sands generate more greenhouse gases than other kinds of oil, and Americans must not become dependent on such a dirty source of energy. But it may already be too late to change that.

Yet another foreign government has accused Americans of meddling in its internal affairs. It says U.S. donors are bankrolling local political activists, and it may be time for a crackdown on the political influence of outsiders.

There's an old joke: The two happiest days in a man's life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it.

That's certainly been true for the owners of the Kalakala, a historic art deco ferry that currently resides in the Puget Sound. Launched in 1935, the vessel's trials and tribulations have become the stuff of legend in Seattle.

For some of America's lowest-paid workers, the new year means a pay raise. Some states set their own minimum wages, above the federal rate of $7.25 an hour, and that rekindles an old debate over whether minimum wages make sense — especially at a time of high unemployment.

Like several other states, Washington state's minimum wage is indexed to the cost of living. This year, the formula has raised the statewide minimum from $8.67 to $9.04 an hour, making it the nation's highest statewide rate.

This fall American police were confronted with something they hadn't seen in 40 years: prolonged, simultaneous political protests across the country. In most cities, police showed restraint. But there have been exceptions — sometimes involving copious amounts of pepper spray. Those flashpoints have become a cause for concern.

Police in Seattle arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters Monday night after marchers briefly blocked traffic coming into the city's busy port. The Seattle protest was the culmination of a day of coordinated protests at ports up and down the West Coast.

Soon after hundreds of Occupy protesters marched to Seattle's Harbor Island, some of them started dragging wooden pallets and scrap metal into the roadway, and traffic in and out of the port came to a halt. The protesters were trying to shut down Terminal 18.

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Boeing announced a surprise deal with its machinists' union yesterday. It tentatively extends the workers' contract for four years. The company also promises to build a new version of its popular 737 in union-friendly Washington State.

From Seattle, NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: The International Association of Machinists also got pay raises and more pension benefits. Local president Tom Wroblewski calls it a new day.

Do the police need a warrant to read your email? Believe it or not, two decades into the Internet age, the answer to that question is still "maybe." It depends on how old the email is, where you keep it — and it even depends on whom you ask.

Some big-name tech companies are now asking Congress to step in and clarify Americans' online privacy rights.

If you do run afoul of the law and you happen to be one of the millions of people who use Gmail then cops will likely be directing their inquiries to the legal department at Google, in Mountain View, Calif.

Is it fair to blame the Occupy Oakland encampment for a murder on its doorstep?

That's the question everyone's debating today here in Oakland, after a young African-American man was gunned down by the campsite Thursday at about 5 p.m.

The Occupy encampment outside Oakland city hall has become a political quagmire for Mayor Jean Quan. Elected just a year ago, she was at one point a source of hope and inspiration for the city's liberals. Now, after her mishandling of the Occupy campsite — she forcibly evicted the campers, and then let them come back — she's managed to alienate friends and open up an opportunity for her political rivals. The situation may cost her the mayor's office before her term is up.

The next time you talk to a police officer, you might find yourself staring into a lens. Companies such as Taser and Vievu are making small, durable cameras designed to be worn on police officer's uniforms. The idea is to capture video from the officer's point of view, for use as evidence against suspects, as well as to help monitor officers' behavior toward the public.

Americans aren't going for coffins like they used to. Cremation is becoming more popular and many families opt to dispose of the ashes somewhere other than a cemetery.

That's not good news for the funeral and cemetery business. Arne Swanson, market director for Dignity Memorial Service Corporation International, recalls watching a family spreading the ashes of a loved one on the fairway of a golf course.

"I thought, 'There must be a better way,' " he says. "There just simply was not a product to meet the needs of this family."

The protests go by a variety of names: "Occupy Wall Street," "American Autumn," "The 99 Percent." And the lack of a unified message is matched by a lack of centralized control. But the protests share a common spark: a disillusioned Canadian adman.

The "Occupy" protests seemed to come out of nowhere. But the early participants, like John Garcia, in downtown Seattle, point to a very specific catalyst.

"I get Adbusters, so that's how I heard about it," he says.

The tech world is mourning Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday from complications of pancreatic cancer. Even as the tributes roll in, it's hard to avoid this nagging question: What will become of Apple without its charismatic co-founder?

Jobs rescued Apple from near bankruptcy and turned it into one of America's most important companies — and one of its biggest. Now, Apple is trying to keep the Jobs magic alive.

A Knack For Detail

Social media companies don't like people creating accounts under fake names. That's long been the case at Facebook, but over the summer, Google's new social network, Google Plus, surprised users by making a point of shutting down accounts with names that didn't look real.

Some online activists refer to Google's action as the "nym wars" — short for "pseudonym wars." They see it as part of a worrying trend to force people to use their real names online.

Trying To Weed Out 'Trolls'

Author Joe McGinniss has been out this week promoting his new book about Sarah Palin — a book widely condemned for gossipy allegations by anonymous sources. The book is getting attention in part because Palin might be running for president.

This summer, Palin certainly looked like a presidential candidate as she rode through Iowa and New Hampshire in a red-white-and-blue bus, but as time ticks away the pressure is building on Palin to make her candidacy official.

Parts of the U.S. are seeing a drop-off in vaccination rates among young children. The falling rates don't necessarily track with poverty or other poor public health trends; in fact, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report flagged the poorest rates of kindergarten vaccination in relatively prosperous states, like Washington and Oregon.

Late last month, while Washington, D.C., was focused on the debt ceiling, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that could have long-term consequences on Internet privacy.

The bill requires all Internet service providers to save their customers' IP addresses — or online identity numbers — for a year. The bill's stated purpose is to help police find child pornographers, but critics say that's just an excuse for another step toward Big Brother.

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