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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3:25am

Sat June 15, 2013
National Security

The Case For Surveillance: Keeping Up With Terrorist Tactics

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 2:40 pm

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

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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2:46am

Fri June 7, 2013
Asia

Cyberspying Expected To Be Discussed At U.S.-China Summit

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 12:34 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Today, President Obama will be turning his attention to China. He's meeting China's new President, Xi Jinping, here in Southern California. There's plenty on the agenda: trade, currency, North Korea. This year, though, a new topic may dominate: China's habit of breaking into U.S. computer networks to steal trade and military secrets.

NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.

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3:55am

Sat May 25, 2013
National Security

Obama Keeps Distance From Torture Debate, At Least For Now

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

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

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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1:03am

Tue May 7, 2013
National Security

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

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 11:04 am

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

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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3:09pm

Tue April 23, 2013
Explosions At Boston Marathon

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

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 6:04 pm

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

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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5:18pm

Thu April 18, 2013
Explosions At Boston Marathon

Two Young Men Suspected In Boston Bombing Attack

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 8:26 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. A dramatic development today in Boston: The FBI announced that it is looking for two men they suspect of placing the bombs that killed three people at the Boston Marathon and injured more than 170. The FBI released both video and photos of the men at the site of the bombings. Here's Special Agent Richard DesLauriers.

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1:23am

Thu April 11, 2013
Latin America

Venezuela's Next Leader Faces Tough Choice On Oil Program

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 8:59 am

Venezuela's acting president, Nicolas Maduro, fist-bumps a worker of the state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., last month. Maduro faces opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in Sunday's presidential election. Whoever wins will have to tackle the legacy of Chavez's oil programs.
Miraflores Presidential Press Office AP

As Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez thought in grandiose terms, and his country's vast oil riches enabled him to act on his vision. But Chavez died before he had to deal with the flaws in his model, and some hard choices await his successor.

Key to Chavez's notion of "21st Century Socialism" was the redistribution of Venezuela's oil earnings. The country's oil reserves — estimated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to be the largest in the world — are worth tens of billions of dollars a year in potential revenue.

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3:13am

Sat April 6, 2013
Asia

U.S. Parries N. Korean Threats With A Fresh Plan

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 2:32 pm

South Korea conducts military exercises near the border with North Korea on Wednesday.
Ahn Young-joon AP

You might think alarm bells would be sounding in Washington, given the warnings coming out of North Korea. But when they talk about North Korea, U.S. officials are sounding like exasperated parents responding to a child's tantrum.

At the White House on Friday, spokesman Jay Carney said the United States "would not be surprised" if North Korea actually carries out a missile test.

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3:12am

Fri March 15, 2013
National Security

Is All The Talk About Cyberwarfare Just Hype?

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 8:00 am

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the danger of a devastating cyberattack is the No. 1 threat facing the U.S. He made the assessment Tuesday on Capitol Hill before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats.
Susan Walsh AP

U.S. government pronouncements about the danger of a major cyberattack can be confusing. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the head of the U.S. military's Cyber Command, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, delivered mixed messages this week while testifying on Capitol Hill.

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3:25pm

Tue March 12, 2013
National Security

Cyberattacks, Terrorism Top U.S. Security Threat Report

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 4:42 pm

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (center), accompanied by FBI Director Robert Mueller (left) and CIA Director John Brennan, testifies on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Susan Walsh AP

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, went before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in a bit of a sour mood. He led off complaining that he had to speak publicly at all.

"An open hearing on intelligence matters," Clapper said, "is a contradiction in terms." And then, before getting to any international problems Clapper hit a domestic one: the spending cuts mandated under the sequestration package.

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2:08pm

Tue February 26, 2013
Middle East

Sanctions Bite, But Iran Shows No Signs Of Budging

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 10:31 am

An Iranian woman shops at a supermarket in the capital, Tehran, on Feb. 22. International sanctions have hurt Iran's economy, but prospects for a breakthrough on Iran's nuclear program are dim as negotiators meet in Kazakhstan.
Behrouz Mehri AFP/Getty Images

A new round of international talks on Iran's nuclear program is under way in Kazakhstan, where the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany are asking Iran to give up any thought of building a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from sanctions.

Western leaders do not predict a breakthrough, but they say small steps could be taken that would increase confidence on both sides.

Still, it's hard to imagine how such negotiations could proceed with lower expectations for progress.

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1:41am

Wed February 13, 2013
National Security

Victims Of Cyberattacks Get Proactive Against Intruders

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 6:56 am

Some companies, frustrated with intrusions into their networks by cyberattackers, are now trying to turn the tables in the ongoing and complicated cyberwar.
iStockphoto.com

U.S. companies that have their networks routinely penetrated and their trade secrets stolen cannot be surprised by a new National Intelligence Estimate on the cyber-espionage threat. The classified NIE, the first-ever focusing on cybersecurity, concludes that the U.S. is the target of a major espionage campaign, with China the leading culprit.

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1:25am

Tue February 12, 2013
National Security

In Cyberwar, Software Flaws Are A Hot Commodity

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 6:50 am

An analyst looks at code in the malware lab of a cybersecurity defense lab at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Sept. 29, 2011.
Jim Urquhart Reuters/Landov

There have been security flaws in software as long as there has been software, but they have become even more critically important in the context of cyberweapons development.

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3:36am

Mon February 11, 2013
National Security

Pentagon Goes On The Offensive Against Cyber Attacks

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 4:38 pm

Homeland Security analysts watch for threats to U.S. technological infrastructure at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

With the Pentagon now officially recognizing cyberspace as a domain of warfare, U.S. military commanders are emphasizing their readiness to defend the nation against cyberthreats from abroad. What they do not say is that they are equally prepared to launch their own cyberattacks against U.S. adversaries.

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3:16pm

Thu February 7, 2013
National Security

Brennan Objects To Use Of Waterboarding In CIA Confirmation Hearing

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 3:28 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.

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8:40pm

Wed February 6, 2013
National Security

Obama's Pick For CIA Chief To Face Senate Scrutiny

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 1:07 pm

John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, speaks at the White House in January. Brennan is President Obama's choice for CIA director.
Carolyn Kaster AP

John Brennan, President Obama's choice to lead the CIA, can look forward to a grilling Thursday on Capitol Hill. As Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, he has been associated with some controversial policies, including the use of armed drones. Brennan's nomination comes before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and members from both parties have their questions ready.

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10:56am

Mon February 4, 2013
National Security

The CIA And The Hazards Of Middle East Forecasting

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 6:48 am

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is flanked by senior military officers as he reviews maps of battlefield developments in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. He's shown at army headquarters in Cairo on Oct. 15, 1973. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, catching Israel and the CIA off-guard.
AP

Government agencies do not often acknowledge their own errors, but the CIA has done just that with the declassification of intelligence memoranda on the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

The documents show that agency analysts, down to the last minute before the outbreak of fighting, were assuring President Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other policymakers that Egypt and Syria were unlikely to attack Israel.

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1:39am

Thu January 24, 2013
Africa

Algeria Attack A 'Wake-Up Call' For Energy Companies

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 11:19 am

A week has passed since the terrorist attack on a natural gas facility in Algeria, but risk analysts and security experts are still undecided about the incident's likely impact in the energy world.

The price of oil, a good indicator of anxiety in the energy market, went up modestly right after the attack, but then it stabilized. No energy company has suspended operations in Algeria, nor has any company announced it will hold off on future investments in North Africa, a key source of oil and gas supplies.

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3:34pm

Mon January 7, 2013
National Security

CIA Nominee Brennan Has Obama's 'Complete Trust'

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 4:19 pm

John Brennan speaks in the East Room of the White House on Monday, after President Obama announced his nomination of Brennan to run the CIA. Obama also announced his choice of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (left) to head the Department of Defense.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's choice of John Brennan to lead the CIA appears to be less controversial than his decision to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

The top Republican on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said in a statement Monday that he looks forward to working with Brennan at the CIA. Still, the Brennan nomination will raise questions about Obama's national security policy.

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2:52pm

Fri January 4, 2013
Latin America

Policymakers Planning For A Venezuela After Chavez

Originally published on Fri January 4, 2013 5:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Hugo Chavez has dominated Venezuela for so long that it's hard to imagine what the country would be like without him in charge. Opposition leaders are hoping for a new, more democratic system. But powerful factions in Venezuela want things to stay just as they are. Because the country is a key player in the region, NPR's Tom Gjelten says the U.S. is now making its own plans for life after Chavez.

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