Tom Bowman

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.

In his current role, Bowman has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan often for month-long visits and embedded with U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at The Baltimore Sun. Altogether he was at The Sun for nearly two decades, covering the Maryland Statehouse, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Security Agency (NSA). His coverage of racial and gender discrimination at NSA led to a Pentagon investigation in 1994.

Initially Bowman imagined his career path would take him into academia as a history, government, or journalism professor. During college Bowman worked as a stringer at The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass. He also worked for the Daily Transcript in Dedham, Mass., and then as a reporter at States News Service, writing for the Miami Herald and the Anniston (Ala.) Star.

Bowman is a co-winner of a 2006 National Headliners' Award for stories on the lack of advanced tourniquets for U.S. troops in Iraq. In 2010, he received an Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of a Taliban roadside bomb attack on an Army unit.

Bowman earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, and a master's degree in American Studies from Boston College.

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5:34am

Sun November 10, 2013
National Security

Why Does The NSA Keep An EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE? It's Top Secret

Originally published on Sun November 10, 2013 10:54 am

iStockphoto.com

What do the following words have in common?

SHARKFINN
KEYSTONE
DISHFIRE
TWISTEDPATH

The answer? They're all NSA code words.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, leaked thousands of documents about some of the most secretive programs run by the U.S. government. So secret, they're all given classified names.

You may have heard of PRISM, the name of the secret NSA program that vacuums up Internet communications. Turns out just about everything else at the world's biggest spy agency has its own code word.

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2:00am

Thu October 31, 2013
Parallels

Case Of Marines Desecrating Taliban Bodies Takes A New Twist

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 9:43 am

A still frame taken from a YouTube video shows Marines who were later disciplined for desecrating three dead Taliban members in a 2011 incident in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
YouTube

In a case that caused a major stir last year, a YouTube video surfaced showing Marines in Afghanistan joking and laughing as they urinated on three dead Taliban fighters. The Marines involved in the July 2011 incident in the southern province of Helmand were disciplined.

It seemed the case was over, but now it has taken a strange twist. There are allegations that the Marines' top officer, Gen. James Amos, illegally interfered with the judicial proceedings in an effort to ensure harsher penalties.

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2:50am

Tue October 22, 2013
NPR Story

Women Break New Ground In Marine Infantry Training

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 4:53 am

Female Marines have been training for the past month at Camp Lejeune, trying to make it through infantry training. They've got a month to go, including a 12-mile hike with a heavy pack. They're the first ones ever to handle the training, part of an effort to integrate women into combat positions by 2016.

2:44am

Thu October 10, 2013
National Security

Foundation To Pay Military Death Benefits During Shutdown

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 5:39 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On a Thursday, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The remains of four American service members were returned yesterday to Dover Air Force Base. They were killed in Afghanistan.

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12:02pm

Fri October 4, 2013
The Two-Way

Officials Detail Shutdown's Chilling Effect On National Security

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 3:42 pm

National Intelligence Director James Clapper waits for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary on Wednesday.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told Congress this week that the partial federal government shutdown has forced the furlough of some 70 percent of employees throughout the intelligence community.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Clapper, a 50-year veteran of intelligence work.

So what impact is all this having on the spy world?

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1:38pm

Thu August 8, 2013
Parallels

Egypt's Top General And His U.S. Lessons In Democracy

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 4:56 pm

Downtown Cairo is plastered with huge posters of Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the U.S.-trained Egyptian army chief who helped overthrow President Mohammed Morsi.
Amr Abdallah Dalsh Reuters/Landov

Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man at the center of the military takeover in Egypt, is the latest in a series of American-trained foreign officers to oust a civilian government.

Just seven years ago, he was a student at the Army War College in rural Pennsylvania. At a recent military graduation ceremony in Alexandria, Egypt, el-Sissi talked about his ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

The army was forced to take that step, the general said, in the wake of mass protests against the elected government.

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4:06pm

Mon August 5, 2013
All Tech Considered

Special Ops Envisions 'Iron Man'-Like Suit To Protect Troops

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 4:24 pm

Concept art of the suit the Special Operations Command is trying to build.
Raytheon via YouTube

In the Iron Man movie series, Robert Downey Jr. plays a billionaire working with his trusty robot to build a protective suit that will help him battle evil.

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1:37am

Fri July 5, 2013
National Security

NSA's Reach Leads To Calls For Updated Eavesdropping Laws

Originally published on Fri July 5, 2013 8:18 am

National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

The continuing leak of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has renewed a debate about the U.S. government's power to reach secretly into the personal lives of its citizens.

But there is at least one point on which both privacy advocates and security experts agree: The laws governing electronic eavesdropping have not kept pace with technology.

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1:08am

Thu July 4, 2013
Those Who Serve

From Front-Line Soldier To Trainer, An Afghan Odyssey

Originally published on Fri July 5, 2013 1:55 pm

ANA soldiers plot coordinates on a map with the help of their American trainers.
David Gilkey NPR

This report is part of "Those Who Serve," an occasional series that looks at those who wear the military uniform during a time of war.

It's early afternoon at a small outpost in eastern Afghanistan, and U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Cunningham, with the 10th Mountain Division, heads into a long, dusty tent to teach Afghan soldiers the basics of map reading.

After the sun sets, American soldiers help Afghan soldiers outside the wire. They pop artillery shells containing what's called an illumination round.

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1:20am

Fri June 14, 2013
Parallels

Friction Among Afghans A Threat To Post-U.S. Mission

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 1:48 pm

A soldier from the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Manchus, looks toward the tree line through his rifle scope while on a foot patrol to visit Afghan Local Police in the Panjwai District of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Panjwai is one of the most dangerous districts in Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

The Afghan farmer in Panjwai District, outside the southern city of Kandahar, is finally fed up with the Taliban.

His name is Abdullah Razik. He's slight, with a trim beard and a dark green shirt that falls below his knees.

The Taliban plant roadside bombs in his fields, he says, and shoot near his house. The area is one of the most dangerous in Afghanistan — the birthplace of the Taliban.

Not long ago, something worse happened, Razik says.

"My friend ... lost his hand," he says. "The Taliban were putting IEDs in my village" four months ago.

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6:11am

Tue June 4, 2013
Afghanistan

U.S. Worries Afghan Forces Will Divide Along Ethnic Lines

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

When the American combat mission in Afghanistan ends next year, one concern for U.S. officials is the possibility that the Afghan security forces will then splinter along ethnic lines, and the warlords of the past will reemerge.

From Kandahar, here's NPR's Tom Bowman.

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1:24am

Tue June 4, 2013
Parallels

As U.S. Troops Draw Down, Can Afghans Take The Lead?

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 9:25 am

Villagers in Kasan gather to meet with Afghan local police and the Afghan National Army along with ANASF team members during a morning shura to discuss security.
David Gilkey NPR

There's just a sliver of light in the eastern sky as the patrol leaves the American compound through a thick metal door.

They scamper across Highway 2, a narrow asphalt road that leads to Kabul, just an hour's drive away — if not for the war. They cross an old graveyard and head toward the silhouette of a tree line, all seen through the eerie green glow of night-vision goggles.

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11:33am

Thu May 30, 2013
Parallels

As The Clock Ticks, U.S. Forces Scale Back Afghan Goals

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 4:15 pm

The gray line in the upper left comes from an aerial view of Afghanistan's crucial Highway 1, the main route between Kabul and Kandahar, the two biggest cities. U.S. forces are still working to secure the route which runs through lush farm valleys and the high desert terrain.
David Gilkey NPR

As the American military winds down its efforts in Afghanistan, grand plans for nation building are giving way to limited, practical steps: building up the Afghan forces and denying the Taliban key terrain, especially the approaches to Kabul.

About an hour south of the capital Kabul, one Green Beret team returned to a village where American forces had pulled out.

Lt. Col. Brad Moses, who was in the Sayed Abad district four years ago, wandered around the government center and expressed disappointment at the scene.

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11:55am

Mon May 27, 2013
Afghanistan

Service Members Observe Memorial Day Through Sweat And Tears

Originally published on Mon May 27, 2013 2:57 pm

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Johnson trains at Bagram Air Field for the Memorial Day Murphy, a CrossFit workout honoring a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2005.
David Gilkey NPR

At Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Michael Johnson exercises under a long, steel framework set on a wooden platform. It looks like a giant jungle gym. Above his head are pull-up bars and rings. A climbing rope is off to one side.

It's here where he and dozens of other soldiers and sailors will remember the fallen, just after sunrise, on Memorial Day. They'll all take part in a grueling exercise regimen, part of CrossFit, the popular high-intensity workout program.

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2:49pm

Fri May 3, 2013
Shots - Health News

From Battlefield To Boston: Marine Comforts Bombing Survivors

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 11:17 am

Marine Sgt. Maj. Damion Jacobs (left) and Marine Capt. Cam West visit with Boston emergency workers who responded to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Oren Dorell for USA Today

1:20am

Tue April 30, 2013
National Security

U.S. Faces Fight At Intersection Of Crime And Extremism

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 1:27 pm

Gen. Antonio Indjai (left), Guinea-Bissau's army chief of staff, at the funeral of the country's late president, Malam Bacai Sanha, on Jan. 15, 2012. The U.S. says Indjai has been involved in drug trafficking, an allegation he denies. He recently eluded a U.S. sting operation that led to the capture of other officials from his country.
Mamadu Alfa Balde AFP/Getty Images

A suspected drug kingpin from the tiny West African nation of Guinea-Bissau was captured on the high seas by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency earlier this month, brought to Manhattan and is now awaiting trial.

The dramatic sting operation sheds light on what officials say is a growing national security threat: criminal networks teaming up with extremist organizations.

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2:47pm

Fri April 26, 2013
Politics

Pressure Builds On White House To Intervene In Syria

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. The White House tried to clarify its message on Syria today, saying it is still studying evidence that the government there has used chemical weapons. Here's press secretary Jay Carney.

JAY CARNEY: We are continuing to work to build on the assessments made by the intelligence community. The degrees of confidence here are varying, this is not an airtight case.

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3:02pm

Wed April 3, 2013
National Security

With Eye On Budget, Hagel Seeks Pentagon Changes

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 6:50 pm

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first major policy speech, laid out Wednesday how to deal with threats in an era of tight defense budgets.

Hagel has ordered the Pentagon to take a hard look at how many soldiers and sailors it needs and what types of weapons it buys. He says the Pentagon is at war with itself: There are competing and spiraling costs within the military — for aging weapons, and for health and pension benefits for military personnel and retirees.

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9:02am

Mon March 25, 2013
National Security

As Qualified Men Dwindle, Military Looks For A Few Good Women

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 3:59 pm

Army recruits perform exercises as part of a demonstration for tourists in front of the military-recruiting station in New York's Times Square.
Mark Lennihan AP

When the Pentagon said earlier this year that it would open ground combat jobs to women, it was cast in terms of giving women equal opportunities in the workplace — the military workplace.

But the move has practical considerations, too. The military needs qualified people to fill its ranks, and it's increasingly harder to find them among men.

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4:16pm

Wed March 13, 2013
The Two-Way

U.S. Troops Train For Possible Mission To Secure Syrian Chemical Agents

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 5:03 pm

Several weeks ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the U.S. is planning what to do about Syria's vast chemical weapons program once Bashar Assad's regime falls. The Syrians are believed to have hundreds of tons of chemical agents, including sarin, one of the deadliest chemical agents. A few drops can be lethal.

So the central question is this: How can those sites be secured so they don't fall into the wrong hands?

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