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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5:51am

Sat June 30, 2012
Europe

European Leaders Cling To Ideal Of Integration

Originally published on Sat June 30, 2012 7:32 am

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi (left) and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (right) during a summit of European leaders in Brussels. They reached an agreement on a growth plan for the continent, and world markets surged.
Bertrand Langlois AFP/Getty Images

It has taken several years of financial upheaval and nearly 20 summits, but the prospect of Europe's disintegration has apparently frightened leaders into working together.

This seems to be the larger message emerging from the European summit in Brussels, Belgium, where EU leaders agreed Friday to a $150 growth plan for the struggling economies across the continent. The deal sent stock markets surging in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

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5:08am

Tue June 12, 2012
National Security

Does Leaking Secrets Damage National Security?

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 8:18 am

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, leaves a closed-door joint meeting with the Senate and House Intelligence committees on June 7. Clapper ordered an inquiry into security leaks to be concluded next week.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Last week's assignment of two federal prosecutors to investigate disclosures of national security information might have been the first shot in a new war on leaks. The director of national intelligence is expected soon to announce new measures to fight unauthorized disclosures, and some members of Congress say it could be time for new anti-leaking laws.

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5:56am

Sat June 2, 2012
National Security

'Flame' Virus Fuels Political Heat Over Cyber Threats

Originally published on Sat June 2, 2012 1:51 pm

iStockphoto.com

New information about computer viruses shows how countries may be lining up to fight a cyberwar. The New York Times reported that former President George W. Bush and President Obama both authorized computer attacks against Iran, culminating in the Stuxnet virus, which targeted Iranian nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, a United Nations agency raised alarms about another virus, dubbed "Flame," which may also have been designed for use against Iran.

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4:42pm

Wed May 23, 2012
National Security

A Peek Inside The CIA, As It Tries To Assess Iran

Originally published on Sat June 2, 2012 2:04 am

One Iranian site of particular interest to U.S. intelligence officials is the military complex at Parchin, about 20 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran. The complex is shown here in a 2004 satellite image.
AP

The latest talks in Baghdad over Iran's nuclear program have prompted the usual arguments. Iran says it has only peaceful intentions. Israeli leaders scoff at that claim. Other world powers are unsure of Iran's intentions and demand that it take steps to show that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies, meanwhile, are sticking with the assessment they made in November 2007, when they reported that Iran "halted its nuclear weapons program" in 2003 and apparently had not restarted it.

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3:26am

Wed May 23, 2012
Middle East

Iran In Tough Spot As Sanctions Take Economic Toll

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 4:24 pm

If sanctions continue, Iran's tankers could fill up with surplus oil and leave the country with no place to store its continued production.
Kamran Jebreili AP

Sanctions have not often worked to get governments to change their behavior, but Iran may prove to be an exception. The country depends on income from oil sales, and the oil sector is highly vulnerable to sanctions.

The United States has stopped buying Iranian oil, and the European Union is set to do so at the end of next month. There are sanctions on Iran's central bank and punishments for companies that help Iran ship its oil.

Jamie Webster, an oil market analyst at PFC Energy, says Iran's oil exports — normally about 2.5 million barrels a day — are in serious jeopardy.

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2:56am

Thu May 10, 2012
National Security

Cybersecurity Firms Ditch Defense, Learn To 'Hunt'

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 1:19 pm

The most challenging cyberattacks these days come from China and target Western firms' trade secrets and intellectual property. But a problem for some is a business opportunity for others: It's boom time for cybersecurity firms that specialize in going after Chinese hackers.

"It's the next big thing," says Richard Stiennon, an industry analyst who specializes in information security firms.

'An Adversary Problem'

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3:35am

Wed May 9, 2012
National Security

Cyber Briefings 'Scare The Bejeezus' Out Of CEOs

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 9:02 pm

Cybersecurity analysts work in the watch and warning center during the first tour of the government's secretive cyberdefense lab intended to protect the nation's power, water and chemical plants, electrical grid and other facilities on Sept. 29, 2011, in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Mark J. Terrill AP

For the CEOs of companies such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, talk of cyberweapons and cyberwar could have been abstract. But at a classified security briefing in spring 2010, it suddenly became quite real.

"We can turn your computer into a brick," U.S. officials told the startled executives, according to a participant in the meeting.

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2:27am

Tue May 8, 2012
National Security

Bill Would Have Businesses Foot Cost Of Cyber War

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 10:20 am

Business executives and national security leaders are of one mind over the need to improve the security of the computers that control the U.S. power grid, the financial system, water treatment facilities and other elements of critical U.S. infrastructure. But they divide over the question of who bears responsibility for that effort.

The disagreement stands as an obstacle to passage of major cybersecurity legislation backed by Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Susan Collins of Maine, among others.

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2:59am

Thu April 26, 2012
National Security

Could Iran Wage A Cyberwar On The U.S.?

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 9:21 am

Cybersecurity experts say Iran has the resources necessary to be a major player in cyberwarfare.
iStockphoto.com

Security professionals in both the U.S. government and in private industry have long feared the prospect of a cyberwar with China or Russia, two states capable of launching destructive attacks on the computer networks that control critical assets such as the power grid or the financial system.

Now they face a new cyberthreat: Iran.

"[The Iranians] have all the resources and the capabilities necessary to be a major player in terms of cyberwarfare," says Jeffrey Carr, an expert on cyberconflict who has consulted for the U.S. Department of Defense.

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4:40am

Thu March 22, 2012
National Security

Cybersecurity Bill: Vital Need Or Just More Rules?

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 7:03 am

The Homeland Security Department's Control System Security Program facilities in Idaho Falls, Idaho, are intended to protect the nation's power grid, water and communications systems. U.S. security officials and members of Congress are convinced a new law may be needed to promote improved cyberdefenses at critical facilities.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Consider what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans, and you get an idea of the consequences of a cyberattack on critical U.S. infrastructure: No electricity. No water. No transportation. Terrorists or enemy adversaries with computer skills could conceivably take down a power grid, a nuclear station, a water treatment center or a chemical manufacturing plant.

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4:00am

Mon March 19, 2012
World

Sanctions' Squeeze On Iran Tightens

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

U.S. officials think that this may finally be the time that economic sanctions against Iran will start to have a major effect. The U.S. and its European allies have been hoping that tighter and tighter sanctions will push Iran to negotiate an agreement over the future of its nuclear program. Israel has said it can't wait forever before ordering a military strike, but U.S. officials believe that the sanctions can produce results. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

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12:01am

Thu March 8, 2012
Presidential Race

How Far Apart On Iran Are GOP Candidates, Obama?

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 9:10 am

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in April 2008. Western governments suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. How to handle the possible threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is a major foreign policy concern of the U.S.
AP

Republican presidential candidates this week — with the exception of Ron Paul — appeared to be trying to outdo each other in saying how tough they would be in dealing with Iran. Speaking before a pro-Israel group, they said President Obama has been weak — "feckless," in Mitt Romney's words.

Obama, meanwhile, was not impressed. He said he'd heard a lot of "bluster" and "big talk" about Iran, "but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we've been doing over the last three years."

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5:57pm

Fri March 2, 2012
Middle East

U.S. To Israel: Iran Is Feeling Heat From Sanctions

Originally published on Sun March 4, 2012 8:41 am

The White House meeting next Monday between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be the most critical encounter for the two men since they took office.

Netanyahu is expected to argue that time is running out on efforts to discourage Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Obama may say the Israelis can count on U.S. support, but that they should give sanctions and diplomacy time to work before turning to military action.

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11:55am

Tue February 28, 2012
Politics

As GOP Races On, Puerto Rico Could Be Battleground

Mitt Romney campaigns with Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno at Lanco Paint Co. in Orlando, Fla., last month. The Puerto Rico's March 18 primary could be a significant source of delegates for the GOP candidates.
Charles Dharapak AP

Residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, but they get a say in who should be president only by voting in the Democratic and Republican party primaries. Because Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state, Puerto Ricans are not allowed to vote in the general election. The political parties, on the other hand, can set their own nominating procedures, and on occasion Puerto Rico becomes a primary battleground.

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5:29am

Sat February 18, 2012
Asia

U.S. Not Afraid To Say It: China's The Cyber Bad Guy

Originally published on Sat February 18, 2012 3:09 pm

Staff members use computers at a press center in Beijing. Security experts say hacking of U.S. computers from China is becoming an increasing problem.
Greg Baker AP

American officials have long complained about countries that systematically hack into U.S. computer networks to steal valuable data, but until recently they did not name names.

In the last few months, that has changed. China is now officially one of the cyber bad guys and probably the worst.

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5:48am

Sun January 29, 2012
Europe

In Iran's Oil Gambit, EU Nations Have Much To Lose

The Europeans are in the midst of their most serious economic crisis in 60 years, and now they're hearing it's not just their own fate they have to consider: The whole global economy hangs in the balance.

The International Monetary Fund last week warned that if Europe's problems get any worse, it could push the entire world back into recession.

European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels on Monday, are said to be close to resolving some of their most difficult issues — and they'd better be.

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12:01am

Wed January 25, 2012
Middle East

Can Sanctions Alone Get Iran To Negotiate?

Originally published on Wed January 25, 2012 10:44 am

Fishing boats are seen in front of oil tankers on the Persian Gulf waters, south of the Strait of Hormuz. The European Union has announced plans to join U.S. efforts to slow the flow of oil from Iran, the world's third largest exporter.
Kamran Jebreili AP

In an effort to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program through economic pain, both the U.S. and the European Union have imposed sanctions that should make it harder for Iran to sell its oil. But the global oil business is unpredictable, and sanctions are no guarantee.

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6:22pm

Mon January 23, 2012
Europe

EU Squeezes Iran With New Oil Sanctions

The EU has agreed to an embargo on buying oil from Iran in the latest sanction against that country for its nuclear program. Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, speaks here in Brussels on Monday following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Virginia Mayo AP

The battle over Iran's nuclear program escalated Monday as the European Union announced an embargo on importing oil from Iran.

For years, Europe has been reluctant to join the United States in imposing tough sanctions on Iran. The United States years ago stopped buying Iranian oil, while European nations including France, Spain, Italy, and Greece kept up their purchases. European countries right now buy about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran.

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12:01am

Thu January 19, 2012
Europe

A Look Back At Bosnia, Through Angelina Jolie's Eyes

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 10:36 am

NPR's Tom Gjelten joined Angelina Jolie (right) on a panel about the film In the Land of Blood and Money. Also seen are Vanesa Glodjo (left) and Goran Kostic, who act in the film.
Courtesy of FilmDistrict

Angelina Jolie was just 16 when the war in Bosnia began, and she acknowledges now that she paid little heed to it at the time. But as her awareness of international issues later took shape, her attention was drawn back to that Balkan conflict.

"I wanted to understand," she says. "I was so young, and I felt that this was my generation; how do I not know more?" Now, that war is the subject of In the Land of Blood and Honey, her debut film as a writer and director.

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3:00pm

Thu January 12, 2012
Technology

Some Say The U.N. Should Control The Internet

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, is forging ahead with plans to sell new domain categories despite vocal opposition. The decision raises questions about who should govern the Internet.
mipan iStockphoto.com

For the first time, organizations can apply for an Internet address all their own, marking the start of a new era in the growth of the Internet.

For example, ".com" and ".org" could be replaced by ".starbucks" or ".newyork."

The expansion was planned by the one organization empowered to regulate the global Internet — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

Debate over the new policy has highlighted the key issue of who, if anyone, should control the Internet.

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6:10am

Sun January 8, 2012
National Security

U.S., Iran Play Economic Knockdown

Originally published on Sat January 14, 2012 9:09 am

A member of the Iranian military takes position in a military exercise on the shore of the Sea of Oman in December.
Mohammad Ali Marizad AP

Tensions with Iran these days are as high as they've been in years, and managing them will be one of the top challenges facing the Obama administration this year. With Iran threatening to block U.S. ships from entering the Persian Gulf, and the United States vowing not to back down, the stage seems to be set for war. And yet, what's happening with Iran right now may be more of an economic confrontation than a military standoff.

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6:48am

Tue January 3, 2012
World

Regime Changes May Lead To Dangerous New Year

Big changes in 2011 — from the Arab Spring to the death of North Korea's dictator — create opportunities for 2012. But change can be scary, even when the regimes to be replaced are unpopular or repressive, because there's never a guarantee the new regime will be better.

12:01am

Wed December 21, 2011
Middle East

White House Faces Tough Choice On Iran Sanctions

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 10:35 am

Let Iran off the hook or undermine the global economy? Slap sanctions on an Iranian energy company or provide Europe with an alternative to Russian gas? Washington policymaking is especially difficult when the aims conflict, and few cases illustrate that principle more clearly than the challenge of finding a way to punish Iran without hurting someone else.

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5:21pm

Thu December 15, 2011
World

New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 7:40 pm

Reporters interview Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Ghasemi before the start of the 160th meeting of the OPEC Conference in Vienna, Dec. 14. The global market for oil complicates the issue of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Xu Liang Xinhua /Landov

The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad.

But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.

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5:24pm

Wed November 30, 2011
World

U.S. Considers Sanctions On Iran's Central Bank

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 11:13 pm

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves in Pakdasht, southeast of Tehran, Nov. 23. Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said he was surprised at European moves to isolate Tehran's central bank.
HO Reuters/Landov

Iran has been dealing with economic sanctions for years, but the country could soon face measures tougher than anything it has encountered before: Legislation moving through the U.S. Congress would target the central bank of Iran, with the likely effect of severely limiting Iran's oil exports.

Such sanctions would almost certainly damage Iran's economy. The challenge would be to make sure other countries are not hurt as well, given the fragile state of the global economy and the tight global oil market.

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12:01am

Fri November 11, 2011
Europe

Political Paralysis Worsens European Debt Crisis

Originally published on Fri November 11, 2011 8:48 am

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised Tuesday to resign after parliament passed economic reforms demanded by the European Union. The debt crisis in Europe has been compounded by political problems.
Andrew Medichini AP

Barely two weeks ago, it appeared that European leaders had a package to contain their debt crisis. Greece's problems would be managed, with private bondholders taking a hit on their investments and a new bailout to help the government meet its obligations. A European rescue fund would protect Italy and Spain from any risk spreading from Greece.

Markets soared. And then, this week, they crashed.

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4:59pm

Thu November 3, 2011
National Security

China, Russia Top List Of U.S. Economic Cyberspies

A poster warns U.S. companies of the threat of cyber-espionage. A new report released Thursday names China and Russia as the top culprits in the theft of U.S. intellectual property and technology.
Courtesy of the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive

Privately, U.S. officials have long complained that China and Russia are out to steal U.S. trade secrets, intellectual property and high technology. But in public they've been reluctant to point fingers and instead have referred obliquely to "some nations" or "our rivals."

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4:59am

Wed November 2, 2011
National Security

Stuxnet Raises 'Blowback' Risk In Cyberwar

Originally published on Fri November 4, 2011 7:53 pm

Instructor Mark Fabro leads an exercise at the Department of Homeland Security's cyberdefense facility at the Idaho National Laboratory in September. Training at the lab is intended to help protect the nation's power, water and chemical plants, electrical grid and other facilities from computer viruses such as Stuxnet.
Mark J. Terrill AP

The Stuxnet computer worm, arguably the first and only cybersuperweapon ever deployed, continues to rattle security experts around the world, one year after its existence was made public.

Apparently meant to damage centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran, Stuxnet now illustrates the potential complexities and dangers of cyberwar.

Secretly launched in 2009 and uncovered in 2010, it was designed to destroy its target much as a bomb would. Based on the cyberworm's sophistication, the expert consensus is that some government created it.

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4:00am

Fri October 21, 2011
Europe

Eurozone Debt Crisis Divides France, Germany

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

ARI SHAPIRO, host: And I'm Ari Shapiro filling in for Steve Inskeep.

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4:31am

Mon September 26, 2011
World

Security Expert: U.S. 'Leading Force' Behind Stuxnet

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 4:00 pm

German cybersecurity expert Ralph Langner warns that U.S. utility companies are not yet prepared to deal with the threat presented by the Stuxnet computer worm, which he says the U.S. developed.
Courtesy of Langner Communications

One year ago, German cybersecurity expert Ralph Langner announced that he had found a computer worm designed to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran. It's called Stuxnet, and it was the most sophisticated worm Langner had ever seen.

In the year since, Stuxnet has been analyzed as a cyber-superweapon, one so dangerous it might even harm those who created it.

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