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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Presidential Race
4:44 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Romney's Critiques Of Obama Like Reagan's Of Carter

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 5:50 pm

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says President Obama's foreign policies have sent "confusing messages" to the world. The critique argues that the Obama foreign policy is not muscular enough. It's a message that echoes the presidential campaign of 1980 when Ronald Reagan challenged Jimmy Carter.

National Security
3:39 am
Wed September 12, 2012

Software, Not Just Bullets, Puts Military At Odds

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

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

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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Middle East
3:46 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Massive Cyberattack: Act 1 Of Israeli Strike On Iran?

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

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

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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Politics
5:06 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Romney Goes After Obama On Alleged Leaking Of Secrets

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

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

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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Middle East
3:31 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Can Sanctions Force Iran To Change Its Policies?

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

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

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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National Security
5:33 am
Tue June 12, 2012

Does Leaking Secrets Damage National Security?

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

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

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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National Security
5:56 am
Sat June 2, 2012

'Flame' Virus Fuels Political Heat Over Cyber Threats

iStockphoto.com

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

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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Middle East
3:26 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Iran In Tough Spot As Sanctions Take Economic Toll

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

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

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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National Security
2:56 am
Thu May 10, 2012

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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National Security
8:34 am
Wed May 9, 2012

Cyber Briefings 'Scare The Bejeezus' Out Of CEOs

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

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

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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National Security
2:27 am
Tue May 8, 2012

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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National Security
2:59 am
Thu April 26, 2012

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

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

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

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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National Security
4:40 am
Thu March 22, 2012

Cybersecurity Bill: Vital Need Or Just More Rules?

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

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

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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Presidential Race
12:01 am
Thu March 8, 2012

How Far Apart On Iran Are GOP Candidates, Obama?

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

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

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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Campaign 2012
11:55 am
Tue February 28, 2012

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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