Martin Kaste

NPR's Martin Kaste covers the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and western Canada, and occasionally roams farther afield. Kaste's reports and features can be heard on all of NPR's news programs and newscasts.

Politics is a big part of Kaste's beat, and he's followed the career of Alaska's Sarah Palin since well before the day she was picked as John McCain's running mate.

He also specializes in privacy issues, focusing on the government's wireless wiretapping practices, and the data-collection and analysis that goes on behind the scenes in social media and other new media.

Before moving to the West Coast, Kaste spent five years as NPR's South America reporter. He covered the drug wars in Colombia, the financial meltdown in Argentina, the rise of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the fall of Haiti's president Jean Bertrand Aristide. All told, Kaste covered the overthrow of five presidents in five years.

Kaste joined NPR fulltime in February 2000, after working in St. Paul as a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, which he joined in 1993. He's a graduate of Carleton College.

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5:43am

Sat March 1, 2014
Around the Nation

Sand Grinds World's Largest Tunneling Machine To A Halt

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 11:03 am

The Seattle tunneling machine known as Bertha, which started its task in July, is now stuck 60 feet underground.
Ted S. Warren AP

Contractors working for the state of Washington are planning a high-stakes operation to rescue Bertha — the world's largest tunneling machine.

Bertha is supposed to be boring a 2-mile highway tunnel under downtown Seattle, but it got stuck in December.

Bertha is on Seattle's waterfront, between South Main and South Jackson streets, about 60 feet straight down. At first, they thought the machine was being stymied by a big glacial rock. Then attention focused on the chewed-up remains of a metal pipe. But now it seems Bertha's ailment is mechanical.

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8:45pm

Fri February 28, 2014
All Tech Considered

As Police Monitor Social Media, Legal Lines Become Blurred

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 10:35 pm

BlueJay, a tool by social media monitoring company BrightPlanet, shows the locations of tweeters who have left their geotagging option activated.
BlueJay screenshot

Social media monitoring started in the world of marketing, allowing companies to track what people were saying about their brands. But now, with software that allows users to scan huge volumes of public postings on social media, police are starting to embrace it as well.

Many police departments in Britain use a product sold by CrowdControlHQ. CEO James Leavesley says the company is in the business of monitoring "social media risk."

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4:01pm

Fri February 28, 2014
All Tech Considered

As Police Monitor Social Media, Legal Lines Become Blurred

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 8:33 pm

BlueJay, a tool by social media monitoring company BrightPlanet, shows the locations of tweeters who have left their geotagging option activated.
BlueJay screenshot

Social monitoring started in the world of marketing, allowing companies to track what people were saying about their brands. But now, with software that allows users to scan huge volumes of public postings on social media, police are starting to embrace it as well.

Many police departments in Britain use a product sold by CrowdControlHQ. CEO James Leavesley calls it a "social media risk media and monitoring" company, meant primarily as a means of staying in touch with the public. But Leavesley says it's also a way to detect trouble.

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4:05pm

Fri February 21, 2014
All Tech Considered

In 'Domain Awareness,' Detractors See Another NSA

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 3:00 pm

Protesters line up outside City Hall in Oakland, Calif., to demonstrate against the Domain Awareness Center, a data integration system being built by the city and the Port of Oakland.
Martin Kaste NPR

Police are like the rest of us; they suffer from information overload. The data pour in from 21st century sources ranging from license plate readers to Twitter. But as the information comes in, it hits an old-fashioned bottleneck: human beings.

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4:43pm

Mon February 17, 2014
Technology

Cold War Technology Sought By Spy Is In Your Pocket — Sort Of

Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 7:59 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

And now to All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

CORNISH: Today is a tricky business of keeping some American technologies out of foreign hands. When a man from Hong Kong met with an aerospace company in Seattle last week, he was really dealing with an undercover Homeland Security agent. See Kee Chin allegedly tried to buy $85,000 worth of highly specialized accelerometers. He was arrested and charged with trying to smuggle the parts to China.

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2:53pm

Thu January 30, 2014
The Two-Way

New Animation Details What Went Wrong In 2010 Plant Explosion

A Tesoro Corp. refinery is shown Friday, April 2, 2010, in Anacortes, Wash., after an explosion and fire that killed eight people.
Ted S. Warren AP

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its draft report into the causes of a devastating 2010 explosion at a Tesoro refinery on Puget Sound. The accident killed seven workers, and the community has been increasingly upset by how long the investigation has dragged on.

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5:08pm

Fri January 24, 2014
The Two-Way

Holder Favors Pot Banking, And Legal Dealers Shrug

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 5:10 pm

A marijuana bud and cash at a shop in Denver. An owner of marijuana stores in the city says of his company's bank account, "We treat it like gold."
Ed Andrieski AP

When I heard late Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder had come out in favor of bank accounts for state-sanctioned pot businesses, I assumed the industry would react with cheers. After all, they've long complained about being black-balled by banks, which are justifiably afraid of violating federal laws against handling drug money.

But when I started calling around today, the reactions ranged from "That's nice" to "Meh."

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6:05pm

Thu January 23, 2014
The Two-Way

In Seattle, No Simple Answers For A Stalled Tunneling Machine

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 9:38 am

In this photo made with a fisheye wide-angle lens, "Bertha" is shown in July as it prepares to begin tunneling in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP

Ever wonder what happened with Bertha — the world's biggest tunneling machine, stuck under Seattle? We last checked in on the story right before Christmas, when engineers were preparing to send down inspection teams to identify the blockage. People (OK, the media) were having a grand time, floating ridiculous guesses about what the mysterious object might be. An old ship? Dinosaur bones? Bigfoot?

One month later, there's still no clear answer. Certainly nothing headline-grabbing.

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5:32pm

Fri January 10, 2014
U.S.

Marijuana 'Hash Oil' Explodes In Popularity, And Kitchens

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 7:19 pm

Jim Andersen displays butane hash oil at a marijuana growing facility in Seattle in April 2013. The state's licensed producers will be required to use professional-grade equipment when making the extracts.
Elaine Thompson AP

If you think the recent liberalization of marijuana laws around the country is only about smoking leaves and buds, think again. For users younger than 25, "hash oil" is where it's really at. This concentrated resin of marijuana is creating new public safety headaches — even in places where it's legal.

There have always been forms of the substance, but the resins available today are much stronger than in years past. That's due in part to the expertise developed by medical marijuana producers, who have learned how to make more potent versions of the oil.

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4:35pm

Tue December 24, 2013
Around the Nation

A Late Christmas Tree May Not Be A Beauty, But It's A Tradition

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 8:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For a lot of families, Christmas tree tradition spark household debate. For instance, tinsel or beads; white lights or multicolored; star or angel on top. And for some people, it's not how to decorate the tree. It is when to put it up, early or late, late being now, Christmas Eve. NPR's Martin Kaste falls into that last category.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Yes, I belong to that small and shrinking tribe. We're the ones lurking in the Christmas tree lots at the last possible moment. You guys shutting down already?

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9:45am

Sun December 22, 2013
Around the Nation

'Bertha' Still Stuck In Her Tunnel Under Seattle

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 2:33 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The people of Seattle are puzzled by a mystery unfolding underground: the world's biggest tunneling machine is stuck about 75 feet under street level where it's digging a nearly two-mile-long highway right under downtown Seattle. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, engineers say it'll take until January to figure out what is causing the block.

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6:06pm

Tue December 17, 2013
Number Of The Year

A Majority In U.S. Favor Legal Pot, But Will That Stick?

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 1:49 am

Partiers celebrate marijuana legalization in Washington state at a pot party in Seattle earlier this month.
Elaine Thompson AP

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

This year, for the first time, national polls show a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Gallup has been asking the question for four decades, and now it says 58 percent favor legalization.

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4:06pm

Tue December 3, 2013
U.S.

Washington State Growers Roll The Dice On New Pot Licenses

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 6:55 pm

Washington is the second state to adopt rules for the recreational sale of marijuana. Some entrepreneurs see state-licensed pot as a golden ticket, but other growers aren't sure applying for a license makes good business sense.
Ted S. Warren AP

Washington residents thinking about jumping into the state's new legal marijuana industry need to act soon. The deadline to apply for a state license to sell recreational pot is Dec. 19, and the applications are flooding in.

Danielle Rosellison, a loan officer in Bellingham, Wash., applied for her pot-growing license on the first day. "It's so cool," she says, laughing. "We have butterflies in our stomach all the time. I feel like they're all shot up on adrenaline."

To Rosellison and her husband, a stay-at-home dad, legal marijuana is an opportunity to change their lives.

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5:05pm

Mon November 18, 2013
All Tech Considered

Is It The End Of The Line For The Landline?

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 2:35 pm

A lineman grounds a line on a replacement pole in McNeill, Miss., after 2012 Christmas day storms downed both telephone and electric power lines and poles throughout the state. Upkeep on traditional landlines is expensive, and some are pushing for relaxing requirements that phone companies maintain these lines.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

America's traditional phone system is not as dependable as it used to be. Just last month, the Federal Communications Commission told phone companies to start collecting stats on calls that fail to complete. According to one estimate, as many as 1 in 5 incoming long-distance calls simply doesn't connect.

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8:44pm

Wed November 6, 2013
Law

There May Be A Green Light For Pot, But Not For Driving High

In Washington state, dogs don't need to sniff out pot anymore, but troopers are keeping an eye out for high drivers.
Matthew Staver Bloomberg via Getty Images

Western states have led the way in the legalization of marijuana, first with medical marijuana, and then with the legalization of recreational pot in Colorado and Washington last November.

It's been quite an adjustment for the police. Washington State Patrol is adapting to the new reality in a variety of ways, from untraining dogs that sniff out pot, to figuring out how to police high drivers.

A Smell Once Forbidden

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7:35am

Thu September 19, 2013
National Security

ACLU Posts Fed-Collected 'Suspicious' Activity Reports Online

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 2:29 pm

In the last few years, the feds have expanded efforts to collect tips about people's behavior in the real world. At a fusion center in Las Vegas, workers like Daniel Burns, a program coordinator, analyze suspicious activity reports. The ACLU on Thursday posted more than 1,800 of these reports that were gathered in central California.
Monica Lam Center for Investigative Reporting

With all the talk of spying by the National Security Agency, it's easy to forget the government engages in off-line surveillance, too. In the last few years, the feds have expanded efforts to collect tips about people's behavior in the real world; they're called suspicious activity reports.

Hal Bergman, a freelance photographer in Los Angeles, has a fondness for industrial scenes, bridges, ports and refineries.

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5:08pm

Wed September 18, 2013
Mental Health

After Attacks, Seattle Rethinks How To Treat Mentally Ill

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 8:01 pm

Police officials stand next to a bullet-ridden Seattle Metro bus on Aug. 12. A man with a history of mental illness shot and wounded the driver, then died in a chaotic shootout with police.
Ted S. Warren AP

The Navy Yard massacre may renew concerns over the potential dangers of mentally ill people who don't get treatment. That issue is especially hot right now in Seattle, where the mayor has called untreated mental illness an "emergency."

Unstable In Seattle

Seattle's Pioneer Square is an uneasy mix of art galleries and skid road; it's gelato over here, and heroin over there. And then there's mental illness.

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5:08am

Thu September 5, 2013
Business

Data Marketing Critics Check Out What's Written About Them

Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 9:34 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Companies that collect and sell information about you are usually pretty secretive about what they have on you. But one of the biggest data brokers is now letting consumers have a peek.

Yesterday, the Acxiom Corp. set up a website where people can look themselves up. It's called AboutTheData.com. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, some of the first people to try it were the data industry's critics.

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4:49am

Thu August 22, 2013
Law

Lawyers For Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales To Ask For Leniency

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:43 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. We're following developments in Egypt after today's release from prison of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. We'll go to Cairo in a moment. We begin this hour with stories of two military trials in this country. Both involve horrendous massacres.

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5:20am

Thu August 8, 2013
Law

Defense Lawyers Want Out Of Fort Hood Shooting Trial

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 5:30 am

Maj. Nidal Hasan faces 13 charges of murder and 32 of attempted murder for the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.
Reuters/Landov

The judge in the court martial of accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan is expected to announce Thursday what she's going to do about a rebellion in her courtroom.

A team of Army defense lawyers told her on Wednesday that they want to be released from their job.

The defense lawyers want out because they think Hasan is purposely trying to lose this trial.

Hasan fired them in May, but the judge made them stay on to offer Hasan technical help with court procedures.

Now the lead defense lawyer says that arrangement is "untenable."

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3:34pm

Wed July 31, 2013
All Tech Considered

The Online Underworld's Elaborate Prank To Ship Heroin

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 4:01 pm

Cybercriminals are scary, but at least the harm they do is just in cyberspace. So they hack your Twitter, or maybe cause a few zeros to disappear (temporarily) from your bank account. They can't hurt you in any real-world way, right?

Wrong.

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5:14pm

Fri July 26, 2013
Around the Nation

Can Software That Predicts Crime Pass Constitutional Muster?

Originally published on Mon July 29, 2013 12:01 pm

Jeff Brantingham, creator of PredPol, demonstrates computer-generated "predictive policing" zones at the Los Angeles Police Department Unified Command Post in Los Angeles last year.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Typically, police arrive at the scene of a crime after it occurs. But rather than send cops to yesterday's crime, a new trend in law enforcement is using computers to predict where tomorrow's crimes will be — and then try to head them off.

The software uses past statistics to project where crime is moving. Police in Los Angeles say it's worked well in predicting property crimes there. Now Seattle is about to expand it for use in predicting gun violence.

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10:36am

Wed July 17, 2013
All Tech Considered

Police May Know Exactly Where You Were Last Tuesday

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 11:06 am

An Arizona Department of Public Safety officer keeps an eye on his dashboard computer as it reads passing car license plates.
Ross D. Franklin AP

License plate scanners are the dark horse of the surveillance world. They've been around for a decade, but people rarely notice. They don't look much different from closed circuit cameras, perched over busy intersections. Or they're just another device mounted on a passing police car.

But they notice you: A scanner can ID thousands of plates a day. And a new ACLU report says the vast majority of police agencies now use them.

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3:02am

Mon July 15, 2013
Around the Nation

A Peek Inside A Once Top Secret Spot In Atomic Age History

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 11:40 am

Take a tour of the Hanford site, a nuclear production complex in Richland, Wash., and you'll see the hundreds of mechanical water pressure gauges wired to the process tubes inside the core. Tour guide Paul Vinther warns that bumping these gauges could throw off the readings enough to trigger a an emergency shutdown of the reactor.
Martin Kaste NPR

People tend to remember that the atomic bomb was developed at Los Alamos, N.M., and Oak Ridge, Tenn., but they often forget about a third nuclear production complex — the Hanford Site in Richland, Wash. It's where they built the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor.

The "B Reactor" is a windowless, cinder block hulk out in the middle of nowhere. You might mistake it for an abandoned cement plant. But inside, it's a lovingly preserved time capsule of the Atomic Age. If you're lucky, your guide will be one of the people who worked here when the place was still new.

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8:22am

Wed July 10, 2013
All Tech Considered

Utah Internet Firm Defies State's Warrantless Subpoena Law

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 9:51 am

Pete Ashdown is founder and CEO of XMission, Utah's oldest Internet service provider.
Flickr via Center for Study of Ethics at UVU

Utah's oldest Internet service provider, XMission, has refused to give up customer information to law enforcement, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. Specifically, the company says it won't comply with administrative subpoenas.

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5:09pm

Tue July 2, 2013
All Tech Considered

Tools To Help You Hide Online Raise The Ire Of Advertisers

Originally published on Tue July 2, 2013 8:12 pm

People wait to attend a Mozilla press conference in Barcelona, Spain, in February. Mozilla's Firefox and other Web browsers allow users to opt out of third-party tracking cookies.
Josep Lago AFP/Getty Images

When Mozilla announced a plan to improve its system for blocking third-party cookies, it didn't seem like the kind of thing that would make waves. But it didn't take long for the Internet advertising industry to react — furiously.

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4:51am

Wed June 26, 2013
U.S.

Some Tech Companies Find Ways Not To Hire Americans

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 11:31 am

Tech workers looking for jobs may think twice before looking at job ads that are targeted at Americans but actually are intended for foreigners.
iStockphoto.com

Lawmakers continue to wrangle over a bill that would overhaul the nation's immigration system. One provision in this bill would allow companies to import a lot more skilled workers. The tech industry has lobbied hard for this, despite fears among some American workers about the extra competition.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says the bill has American workers covered. "Employers will be given a chance to hire a temporary foreign worker when truly needed. But first, they'll be required to recruit Americans. No exceptions, no excuses," he said.

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5:23am

Tue June 11, 2013
National Security

As Government Surveillance Powers Grow, Privacy Is Redefined

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 5:33 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Since the events of 9/11, the public has had several glimpses into the government's growing surveillance powers. But as NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the resulting scandals and the losses appear to have done little to roll back that surveillance.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: The first real case of surveillance blowback came as early as 2002.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANIEL SCHORR: The most far-reaching plan yet for domestic snooping is being researched in the Pentagon. It is called Total Information Awareness, TIA.

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11:30am

Sat June 8, 2013
National Security

Watchdog Agency Could Keep NSA In Check, Once It Gets Going

Originally published on Sun June 9, 2013 5:39 am

On Friday, President Obama defended the two NSA surveillance programs that were leaked to the news media this week.

One program collects the general public's phone records, the other allegedly gives the government backdoor access to Internet services such as Google and Facebook.

Obama said the programs "strike the right balance," but that's done little to reassure those who think government surveillance has become too broad.

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6:24pm

Wed May 29, 2013
U.S.

Soldier Accused Of Killing Afghan Civilians To Plead Guilty

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 7:18 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The American soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan last year plans to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. Lawyers say Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will plead guilty to 16 counts of premeditated murder next week and that his sentencing trial will be held in September.

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