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
3:03 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
4:44 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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Latin America
3:23 am
Thu April 11, 2013

Venezuela's Next Leader Faces Tough Choice On Oil Program

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

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 10:59 am

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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Asia
5:13 am
Sat April 6, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 4:32 pm

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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Asia
5:35 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

Amid Threats, N. Korea's Neighbors Rethink Defense Policies

South Korean marines work on their K-55 self-propelled howitzers during an exercise against possible attacks by North Korea near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday.
Ahn Young-joon AP

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 8:50 pm

North Korea has been a big headache for the United States, with the new leader there saying almost daily that his country is ready to go to war.

Speaking in Washington on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. can't afford to dismiss that talk as bluster.

"It only takes being wrong once, and I don't want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once, so we will continue to take these threats seriously," he said.

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National Security
5:12 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Is All The Talk About Cyberwarfare Just Hype?

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

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 10:00 am

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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National Security
5:25 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Cyberattacks, Terrorism Top U.S. Security Threat Report

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

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 6:42 pm

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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Middle East
4:08 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Sanctions Bite, But Iran Shows No Signs Of Budging

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

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 12:31 pm

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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National Security
3:41 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Victims Of Cyberattacks Get Proactive Against Intruders

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

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 8:56 am

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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National Security
3:25 am
Tue February 12, 2013

In Cyberwar, Software Flaws Are A Hot Commodity

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

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 8:50 am

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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