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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11:17am

Fri January 17, 2014
National Security

Obama Highlights Challenges Of Balancing Security, Liberty

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 11:39 am

Coverage of President Obama's speech about proposed changes for the National Security Agency continues with more of his comments, plus analysis.

2:56pm

Wed January 15, 2014
National Security

Senate Committee Lays Blame For Benghazi With State Department

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Senate Intelligence Committee today delivered its analysis of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. It's a bipartisan report. Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed, among other things, that the attack might have been prevented if the State Department had taken better precautions at the Benghazi post.

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4:04am

Thu January 2, 2014
National Security

Is U.S. Ready Rethink Sept. 11 Security Policies?

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 5:52 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. President Obama says he will soon propose changes at the National Security Agency. Former contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of NSA surveillance programs widespread criticism and prompted a review of the agency's operations by Congress, the courts, and the White House. NPR's Tom Gjelten looks at whether the country is now at a turning point, ready to rethink the security policies in place since 9/11.

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2:50am

Wed December 4, 2013
NPR Story

Iran's Nuclear Deal Faces Big Test

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 12:39 pm

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are scheduled to visit Iran's heavy-water reactor in the city of Arak on Sunday as part of an international deal on the country's nuclear program.
Hamid Forutan EPA/Landov

The nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers will face its first test this weekend. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are due to make a long-delayed visit to a nuclear site in Iran where plutonium could be produced.

A nuclear reactor and associated production plant in Arak are a special concern because plutonium can be used in a nuclear bomb. Under last month's accord, Iran promised to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Officials on both sides say they are committed to the nuclear deal, but keeping it on track will be a challenge.

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1:23am

Wed November 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

Profit, Not Just Principle, Has Tech Firms Concerned With NSA

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 10:51 am

Google and five other companies sent a letter last month to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee supporting legislation to reform NSA surveillance programs.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Along with the privacy advocates and the national security establishment, there is another set of players with strong views on NSA surveillance programs: U.S. tech companies.

Google and five other companies weighed in on the surveillance debate last month, sending a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supporting legislation to reform National Security Agency surveillance programs.

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12:54am

Tue November 19, 2013
All Tech Considered

Technology Outpacing Policymakers, Needs Of NSA

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 4:15 am

Gen. Keith Alexander is director of the National Security Agency, whose duty, his office has said, "requires us to attempt to collect terrorist communications wherever they traverse global infrastructure."
Evan Vucci AP

The controversy over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs has exposed a problem in the oversight of those programs: The development of the relevant technology has outpaced the laws and policies that govern its use.

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2:25pm

Fri November 15, 2013
The Two-Way

U.S. Tech Firms May Be Feeling Bite From NSA Spying Reports

Recent disclosures about NSA surveillance have affected U.S. relations with allies and tainted America's image around the world. Now the fallout seems to be creeping into the U.S. tech sector.

Cisco Systems, which manufactures network equipment, posted disappointing first-quarter numbers this week and warned that revenues for the current quarter could drop as much as 10 percent from a year ago — partly as a consequence of the NSA revelations.

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3:45pm

Wed November 13, 2013
The Two-Way

Intelligence Officials Aim To Pre-Empt More Surveillance Leaks

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 4:12 pm

U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a conference at the Ronald Reagan Building, in October.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

NSA officials are bracing for more surveillance disclosures from the documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden — and they want to get out in front of the story.

In a recent speech, NSA Director Keith Alexander said Snowden may have taken as many as 200,000 NSA documents with him when he left his post in Hawaii. If so, the vast majority of them have yet to be released.

Intelligence officials tell NPR they believe Snowden's secrets fall into four categories:

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2:37pm

Wed November 13, 2013
National Security

Who Gets The Blame For NSA Spying? NSA Says Not Us

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 6:01 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Over at the NSA, officials say they welcome the president's policy review on surveillance. But they and other intelligence leaders bristle at the idea that they've overstepped their bounds in gathering information, both here and abroad. For months, the NSA has been on the defensive as a result of the Snowden disclosures.

NPR's Tom Gjelten says the agency is now trying to get out in front of the story.

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4:12am

Sun October 20, 2013
Parallels

You Have Questions About The NSA; We Have Answers

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 2:48 pm

A sign outside the National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md.
Patrick Semansky AP

Four months have passed since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began spilling secrets about the NSA's surveillance programs, but many Americans still don't know what to think about the disclosures.

For good reason. The surveillance programs are highly technical, involving the bulk interception of huge volumes of communication data as they traverse multiple links and networks. The laws governing what the NSA can do are complex and open to conflicting interpretations.

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12:56am

Wed October 16, 2013
Parallels

Are We Moving To A World With More Online Surveillance?

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 9:04 am

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was angered by reports that the National Security Agency was spying on her. She has called for giving individual countries greater control over the Internet.
Getty Images

Many governments around the world have expressed outrage over the National Security Agency's use of the Internet as a spying platform. But the possible response may have an unforeseen consequence: It may actually lead to more online surveillance, according to Internet experts.

Some governments, led most recently by Brazil, have reacted to recent disclosures about NSA surveillance by proposing a redesign of Internet architecture. The goal would be to give governments more control over how the Internet operates within their own borders.

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5:47am

Sat September 28, 2013
Africa

Al-Shabab Shifts Focus From Territory To Terrorism

Originally published on Sat September 28, 2013 2:05 pm

Al-Shabab has been around for years as a militia group fighting for territory in Somalia.

When al-Shabab militants, dressed in casual clothes, turned up in a ritzy shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last weekend and gunned down men, women and children, the group shifted from an insurgent movement to a terrorist organization.

"A week ago, al-Shabab wasn't in the news," says Bruce Hoffman, a a terrorism expert at Georgetown University and the Rand Corporation. "Arguably, outside of Somalia, no one really cared about them."

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3:24pm

Fri September 20, 2013
National Security

The Effects Of The Snowden Leaks Aren't What He Intended

Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's secret surveillance program have pushed the agency to expedite planned reforms ahead of schedule, according to NSA officials.
Maxim Shemetov Reuters/Landov

An official assessment of the damage caused by news leaks about government surveillance programs suggests that terrorist groups are changing their communication methods in response to the disclosures, according to officials at the National Security Agency.

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1:19am

Wed September 18, 2013
National Security

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

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 8:58 am

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

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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2:53am

Thu August 22, 2013
National Security

FISA Court: NSA Surveillance Program Was Unconstitutional

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 10:43 am

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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12:57am

Thu August 15, 2013
All Tech Considered

The Next Disaster Scenario Power Companies Are Preparing For

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 6:49 am

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

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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3:43am

Sun July 28, 2013
News

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

Originally published on Sun July 28, 2013 10:31 am

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

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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2:15pm

Mon July 8, 2013
NPR Story

NSA Leaks Focus New Attention On Government Contractors

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:36 am

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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2:33am

Fri June 28, 2013
National Security

Defense Officials Indicate NSA Leaks Have Had Consequences

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 5:13 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.

3:20pm

Fri June 21, 2013
All Tech Considered

NSA Leak Could Be Bad Business For U.S. Tech Companies

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 5:11 pm

The disclosure of previously secret National Security Agency surveillance programs has left many Americans worried that the privacy of their personal data and communications is in jeopardy.

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