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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5:13am

Sat April 6, 2013
Asia

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

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 4:32 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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5:35pm

Wed April 3, 2013
Asia

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

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

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

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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5:12am

Fri March 15, 2013
National Security

Is All The Talk About Cyberwarfare Just Hype?

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 10:00 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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5:25pm

Tue March 12, 2013
National Security

Cyberattacks, Terrorism Top U.S. Security Threat Report

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 6:42 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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4:08pm

Tue February 26, 2013
Middle East

Sanctions Bite, But Iran Shows No Signs Of Budging

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

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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3:41am

Wed February 13, 2013
National Security

Victims Of Cyberattacks Get Proactive Against Intruders

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 8:56 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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3:25am

Tue February 12, 2013
National Security

In Cyberwar, Software Flaws Are A Hot Commodity

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 8:50 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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5:36am

Mon February 11, 2013
National Security

Pentagon Goes On The Offensive Against Cyber Attacks

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 6:38 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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5:28pm

Thu February 7, 2013
National Security

Brennan Objects To Use Of Waterboarding In CIA Confirmation Hearing

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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10:40pm

Wed February 6, 2013
National Security

Obama's Pick For CIA Chief To Face Senate Scrutiny

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 3:07 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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12:56pm

Mon February 4, 2013
National Security

The CIA And The Hazards Of Middle East Forecasting

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 8:48 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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3:39am

Thu January 24, 2013
Africa

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

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 1:19 pm

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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5:09pm

Fri January 18, 2013
Middle East

U.S., Iran Running Low On Options Over Nuclear Program

With time running out on efforts to monitor Iran's nuclear program, 2013 could well be the year when the United States must decide whether to take military action to block Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

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5:34pm

Mon January 7, 2013
National Security

CIA Nominee Brennan Has Obama's 'Complete Trust'

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 6:19 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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4:52pm

Fri January 4, 2013
Latin America

Policymakers Planning For A Venezuela After Chavez

Originally published on Fri January 4, 2013 7:02 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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3:25am

Fri December 14, 2012
Asia

What North Korea's Rocket Launch Tells Us About Iran's Role

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 9:03 am

This monitor screen image shows a graphic of the orbit of the satellite carried by the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea launched this week. The image is from the Korean Central News Agency, distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service.
AP

U.S. officials say the satellite put into orbit by North Korea's rocket launch this week is wobbling, but that doesn't necessarily mean the launch itself was unsuccessful.

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5:24pm

Mon December 10, 2012
National Security

The World In 2030: Asia Rises, The West Declines

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 8:44 pm

The National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030 report predicts that by the year 2030, a majority of the world's population will be out of poverty.
iStockphoto

By the year 2030, for the first time in history, a majority of the world's population will be out of poverty. Middle classes will be the most important social and economic sector. Asia will enjoy the global power status it last had in the Middle Ages, while the 350-year rise of the West will be largely reversed. Global leadership may be shared, and the world is likely to be democratizing.

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3:31am

Thu December 6, 2012
Economy

What Should The U.S. Learn From Europe's Woes?

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 4:21 pm

French President Francois Hollande (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel take part in a bilateral meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Nov. 22 as part of a European budget summit.
Bertrand Langlois AFP/Getty Images

As President Obama and Capitol Hill lawmakers assess the need for spending cuts and tax increases against the risk of triggering a new recession, they might look across the Atlantic for insights from those who have already grappled with those budgetary questions.

The problem of excessive government debt has swamped economies across Europe and forced countries to take severe measures to cut their deficits. The first lesson from their "fiscal consolidation" experiences: It will hurt.

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6:28am

Sat December 1, 2012
Middle East

Shutdowns Raise Issue Of Who Controls The Internet

Originally published on Sat December 1, 2012 4:12 pm

Night falls on a Syrian rebel-controlled area on Thursday, the same day an Internet blackout struck the country. The cause is still unclear, but many claim the Syrian government was responsible.
Narciso Contreras AP

First, it was Egypt. At the height of the protest against the Mubarak regime in 2011, authorities shut the Internet down.

This week, it was Syria. Just as rebel forces there were making big gains, someone pulled the plug on the Internet, and Syria went dark.

Service was restored on Saturday, but Andrew McLaughlin, former White House adviser on technology policy, expects we'll see more of this.

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4:38pm

Wed November 21, 2012
Middle East

What Gaza Says About Possible Iran-Israel Showdown

Originally published on Sun November 25, 2012 10:01 am

An Israeli missile is launched from the Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept incoming rockets. This missile was fired from the southern Israeli city of Ashdod in response to a rocket launched from the nearby Palestinian Gaza Strip on Nov. 18.
Jack Guez AFP/Getty Images

In the Gaza Strip fighting, where a cease-fire was reached Wednesday, the Israeli military pounded Gaza with hundreds of airstrikes. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that rules Gaza, launched hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel.

The weeklong battle temporarily diverted attention from Iran, the archenemy of Israel and a key ally of Hamas. Israeli leaders have threatened to strike Iran over its nuclear program.

Yet the Gaza fight may offer insights into what a possible confrontation between Israel and Iran would look like.

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5:24am

Sat November 17, 2012
U.S.

After Benghazi Hearings, Flurry Of Concern Unsettled

Originally published on Sat November 17, 2012 2:16 pm

After the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Benghazi Friday, Rep. Peter King said he felt U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's comments after the attack may have been sanitized.
Mladen Antonov AFP/Getty Images

David Petraeus' resignation from the CIA further complicated the debate over the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Petraeus, a key figure in the events, stepped down as director after admitting to an extramarital affair. But members of Congress were so anxious to hear from him that they brought Petraeus back to Capitol Hill on Friday to get his version of the Benghazi story.

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2:18pm

Wed November 14, 2012
World

U.S. Rethinks Security As Mideast Oil Imports Drop

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 7:00 pm

A U.S. Marine patrol walks across the charred oil landscape near a burning well near Kuwait City in March 1991. Concerns about oil supply were at play when the U.S. and its allies intervened during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But American policy is changing now that Mideast oil imports to the U.S. are declining.
John Gaps III AP

Within the next two decades, the United States may barely need any oil from the Persian Gulf, due in large part to increased domestic production. That dramatic shift could shake the foundation of U.S. interests in the Middle East.

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5:20am

Wed November 14, 2012
National Security

Scandals Muddles Military Recommendations

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 8:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. We've steadily been learning more about the people at the center of a military scandal. Retired general - and CIA director - David Petraeus resigned because of an affair.

INSKEEP: The affair was discovered when his mistress confronted another woman.

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5:39am

Mon November 12, 2012
National Security

Washington Surprised By News Of Petraeus Affair

Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 5:44 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

The nation's capital this morning is trying to make sense of the sudden resignation last week of CIA director David Petraeus. More details are emerging about the extramarital affair that brought Petraeus down. It came to light following an FBI investigation that was not focused originally on the CIA director, but which soon led straight to him.

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4:37am

Thu October 25, 2012
National Security

Energy Independence For U.S.? Try Energy Security

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 2:17 pm

A drilling rig near Kennedy, Texas, on May 9. U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer.
Eric Gay AP

Gone from this year's presidential campaign are most mentions of climate change, environmental pollution, or green jobs. Former Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, prefers to call attention instead to the country's continuing dependence on foreign energy sources.

"I will set a national goal of North American energy independence by the year 2020," Romney declared in August.

The line is now a standard part of Romney's stump speech, and he repeated it in his first two debates with President Obama.

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1:32pm

Fri October 5, 2012
Solve This

Candidates Tout Different Routes To 'Energy Security'

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 11:07 pm

President Obama and Mitt Romney are both calling on the U.S. to become less dependent on foreign oil, though their plans differ. Here, workers with Bramwell Petroleum set up a derrick for a new oil well near Spivey, Kan., in March.
Mike Hutmacher MCT/Landov

The pressing energy issue in the 2008 presidential campaign was how to reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming. Four years later, the drive for "green energy" has been replaced by a new imperative: the need to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"I will set a national goal of North American energy independence by 2020," Mitt Romney declared during a campaign speech in August. "That means we produce all the energy we use in North America."

He reiterated that goal in the opening minutes of the presidential candidates' debate in Denver this week.

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3:39am

Wed September 12, 2012
National Security

Software, Not Just Bullets, Puts Military At Odds

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 9:28 pm

Soldiers use DCGS-A software at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
U.S. Army

Military commanders, government officials and members of Congress have long wrangled over which weapon systems are needed. Now, there's an argument over what computer software should be provided to soldiers in Afghanistan. It's a defense dispute for the digital age.

In recent years, the ability to analyze data has become almost as important to U.S. war-fighters as the guns they use.

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3:46am

Fri August 24, 2012
Middle East

Massive Cyberattack: Act 1 Of Israeli Strike On Iran?

Originally published on Sun August 26, 2012 8:42 am

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (center) visits the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility in April 2008. Israel and the U.S. targeted the facility in 2009 with the Stuxnet cyberattack.
AP

Talk in Israel of a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities has reached a fever pitch. Last week brought the news of an alleged "war plan" leaked to a blogger. This week, a well-informed military correspondent in Jerusalem reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "determined" to attack Iran before the U.S. election.

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5:06am

Tue July 31, 2012
Politics

Romney Goes After Obama On Alleged Leaking Of Secrets

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 8:25 am

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney meets with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars after his speech at the VFW National Convention in Reno, Nev., on July 24.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

The latest national security issue to figure in the presidential campaign has little to do with Iran, Afghanistan or other foreign policy challenges. Mitt Romney is instead focusing on what he and other Republicans allege is the Obama administration's record of leaking classified information for political purposes.

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3:31am

Tue July 3, 2012
Middle East

Can Sanctions Force Iran To Change Its Policies?

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 8:17 am

Iranian workers make repairs to a unit at Tehran's oil refinery in November 2007. It's estimated that a Western oil embargo is costing Iran about $4.5 billion each month in lost revenue.
Vahid Salemi AP

Whether economic sanctions can force a government to change course is far from clear, but Iran should be a good test case.

A European Union embargo on Iranian oil took full effect this week, complementing U.S. measures that have grown much more severe in recent weeks. Other Western sanctions now in place target Iranian banks, foreign companies that provide shipping insurance for Iranian oil tankers, and foreign firms that invest in the Iranian oil industry.

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