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.

Pages

National Security
5:18 am
Mon November 12, 2012

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.

Read more
National Security
4:37 am
Thu October 25, 2012

Energy Independence For U.S.? Try Energy Security

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

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

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.

Read more
Solve This
1:32 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Candidates Tout Different Routes To 'Energy Security'

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

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

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Europe
5:51 am
Sat June 30, 2012

European Leaders Cling To Ideal Of Integration

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

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

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.

Read more
National Security
5:35 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.

Read more
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.

Read more
National Security
4:42 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

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

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

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

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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'

Read more
National Security
3:35 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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
World
4:00 am
Mon March 19, 2012

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.

Read more
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."

Read more
Middle East
5:57 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

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.

Read more
Asia
5:29 am
Sat February 18, 2012

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

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

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

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.

Read more
Europe
5:48 am
Sun January 29, 2012

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.

Read more
Middle East
12:01 am
Wed January 25, 2012

Can Sanctions Alone Get Iran To Negotiate?

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

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

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.

Read more
Europe
6:22 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

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.

Read more
Europe
12:01 am
Thu January 19, 2012

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

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

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

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.

Read more

Pages