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. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and a freelance writer.



Fri September 16, 2011

U.S. Now Relies On Alternate Afghan Supply Routes

For the first seven years of the Afghanistan war, almost all U.S. and NATO supplies were trucked overland to Afghanistan through parts of Pakistan effectively controlled by the Taliban. Here, smoke and flame rise from a burning NATO supplies oil tanker after armed militants torched the tankers in Mithri, Pakistan, Feb. 7.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Napoleon declared that "an army marches on its stomach," and Gen. Omar Bradley said, "amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics." Successful military commanders have long recognized that few requirements rank higher in wartime than the need to maintain reliable supply lines.

Nowhere is that adage more relevant than in Afghanistan, a landlocked country flanked by hostile or wary neighbors. The shipment of supplies and equipment to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan over the last 10 years has been handicapped by high costs, pilferage, and the threat of ambush.

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Sat September 3, 2011
National Security

WikiLeaks Now Victim Of Its Own Leak

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, once said his mission was not simply to divulge secrets, but to make sure the release of that information actually made a difference.

He shared his trove of diplomatic cables with The New York Times, the Guardian in London, and other news organizations so they could draw the world's attention to the most important parts.

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Mon August 15, 2011

Germans Debate The Cost Of Keeping A Eurozone

Originally published on Mon August 15, 2011 6:36 pm

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met in Berlin last month for negotiations on the European debt crisis. They meet again on Tuesday in Paris in another attempt to stabilize the faltering economies in the eurozone.
Ferdinand Ostrop AP

Within weeks, Europe's spreading debt crisis will force Germany to decide on one of the most critical questions in the Continent's postwar history: Will currency union be strengthened or weakened?

Germany, with the biggest and healthiest economy, has to make the call, and this has prompted a fierce national debate.

The 17 European countries that use the euro as their common currency have such widely varying debt burdens that they cannot survive as a single eurozone unless the strongest rescue the weakest.

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Thu August 11, 2011

In Current Crisis, It's Not Just The Economy

Three years ago, the global economy was brought to the brink by a near meltdown of the international banking system. Now we're in trouble again, but this time our economic woes stem largely from the actions of governments. Escaping from this crisis is more of a political challenge than a financial one.

That doesn't necessarily mean it will be any easier.

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Tue August 9, 2011

Business In Spain Have A Tough Time Getting Credit

The latest phase of the European debt crisis was sparked by a fear that the troubles plaguing Greece, Portugal and Ireland would spread to Spain and Italy. Spain has been struggling for more than two years with an unemployment rate above 20 percent — the highest in Europe.


Wed August 3, 2011

Debt-Ceiling Deal Does Little For Global Economic Ills

With the fight over the U.S. debt ceiling finally over, investors are free again to focus on all the economic challenges that lie ahead, but they are finding little reason to celebrate. Stock markets around the world fell sharply on Tuesday, skipping the "relief rally" that customarily follows the resolution of a crisis.

In the United States, signs of a serious economic slowdown had been building up, though with attention focused on the debt-ceiling debate, the news had apparently not yet sunk in.

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Fri July 29, 2011

Debt Lessons From Around The World

Thousands demonstrate outside the Spanish parliament in Madrid last month in a protest against rampant unemployment and biting austerity measures.
Pedro Armestre AFP/Getty Images

As members of Congress spar over whether to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, they might consider the efforts of other governments to manage their own debt problems. Some have been successful — some not — but all their experiences are instructive, with lessons for Washington.

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Sat July 23, 2011

U.S. Looks To European Allies For Defense Help

With U.S. military spending coming under new pressure from congressional budget cutters, Pentagon planners want European allies to pick up a greater share of the defense burden. The question is which way to look.

West European countries are the most accustomed to working with the U.S. military, but they are now the least inclined to invest in defense. To the east, the former Soviet bloc countries are generally eager to help, but their militaries have less experience in joint operations with their U.S. counterparts.

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Wed July 20, 2011
National Security

FBI Arrests Alleged 'Anonymous' Hackers

The 14 people arrested Tuesday in a crackdown on the Anonymous hacking group are not suspected of having links to criminal gangs, terrorist networks or foreign governments. They are alleged only to have participated in attacks on PayPal's website, after that company cut off payments to WikiLeaks.

But the FBI was determined to go after them anyway.

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Fri July 15, 2011
National Security

U.S. Military Unveils Cyberspace Strategy

The U.S. military can fight on land, in the air, at sea and in space. Now it has a strategy for operations in a new domain: cyberspace.

Under a new plan unveiled Thursday, the Defense Department said it is preparing to treat cyberspace "as an operational domain," with forces specially organized, trained and equipped to deal with cyberthreats and opportunities.

The strategy presumes that "cyberattacks will be a significant component of any future conflict" and that the United States must be prepared to retaliate, possibly even with military force.

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Thu June 16, 2011
National Security

Al-Qaida Chooses New Leader

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian eye doctor who long served as Osama bin Laden's deputy, has been officially chosen as al-Qaida's new leader. Zawahiri was already the group's operational commander and main spokesman, and he was widely expected to succeed Osama bin Laden. Some al-Qaida members have complained that Zawahiri is uninspiring and divisive as a leader, and terrorism experts say he will need to demonstrate that he can direct the terror network as skillfully as bin Laden did.


Thu June 16, 2011

For Recent Cyberattacks, Motivations Vary

Computer users have for years struggled with viruses, worms and all sorts of malware. But the most recent cyberattacks have targeted institutions whose computer systems were thought to be relatively secure: the French Ministry of Finance, Sony, Lockheed Martin, Citibank, even the International Monetary Fund.

"These are first class attacks," says Luis Gorrons, technical director for Panda Security, a global cybersecurity firm. "We were always seeing attacks on small and medium companies, but now we're seeing that many big companies are being targeted and successfully attacked."

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Thu June 9, 2011

Divisions Seen In Administration Over Cyberthreats

A long-standing debate within the Obama administration over how to characterize the cyberthreat has complicated the U.S. effort to lay out a government-wide cybersecurity strategy.

At issue is whether the nation faces the prospect of cyberwar and needs to prepare for it. The Pentagon says yes. Howard Schmidt, the White House coordinator for cybersecurity, sees such talk as "hype" and rejects the "cyberwar" term.

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Sat May 14, 2011
National Security

Spinning The Bin Laden Tale

The operation against Osama bin Laden was more than just a military raid. It was also an opportunity to attack bin Laden's image and ideology.

The war on al-Qaida is in part a propaganda struggle, fought with the aim of changing attitudes in the Muslim world.

Finding and killing bin Laden was not enough. Almost as important was what came afterward: the work of telling the story of the operation in such a way as to advance U.S. interests.

The Bin Laden Narrative

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Thu May 5, 2011
National Security

Did Harsh Interrogation Tactics Lead To Bin Laden?

To find Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials first had to find the man who served as his courier. But the operation that killed the al-Qaida leader has stirred up some controversy: Some of the information about the courier may have come as the result of harsh CIA interrogations.

NPR has learned the courier was a Kuwait-born Pakistani who went by the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. It was in his house that U.S. forces found and killed bin Laden.

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Tue May 3, 2011
Osama Bin Laden Killed

Bin Laden's Death Revives Debate Over Interrogation

U.S. officials say Osama bin Laden was found by tracking his most trusted courier. Knowledge about that courier was gleaned in part through the interrogation of detainees, either at Guantanamo or in CIA prisons. Supporters of the Bush administration's detention policies say the bin Laden operation demonstrated that "enhanced interrogation" tactics actually worked to provide valuable information. Some intelligence officials say that argument is too simplistic.


Mon May 2, 2011
NPR Story

U.S. Military Team Targeted Bin Laden In Pakistan

U.S. helicopters hit a fortified compound in an affluent Pakistani suburb of Islamabad. Intelligence officials discovered the compound last summer while monitoring an al-Qaida courier.


Thu April 28, 2011
The Guantanamo Papers

Judges Question Evidence On Guantanamo Detainees

A side-by-side comparison of the Pentagon's secret Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs and federal court rulings involving those detainees shows that intelligence analysts and federal judges can reach starkly opposing conclusions, even while relying on the same raw intelligence.

The Pentagon's threat profiles suggest little doubt about the prisoners' alleged terrorism record, but in some cases, federal judges have been unimpressed by those conclusions. The classified Guantanamo assessment reports were obtained recently by The New York Times and shared with NPR.

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Mon April 25, 2011
NPR News Investigations

'High-Risk' Detainees Released From Guantanamo

NPR, along with The New York Times, is reporting on hundreds of classified documents concerning detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The documents were originally leaked to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and come from the Pentagon's Joint Task Force at Guantanamo. In the papers, the government assesses the dangers posed by the detainees. An NPR investigation shows that some detainees, considered likely to pose a threat to the U.S. if they were released, were indeed let go.


Sun April 24, 2011
NPR News Investigations

Detainees Transferred Or Freed Despite 'High Risk'

An NPR investigation of secret military documents from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay details the system used to assess how dangerous the detainees would be if released.

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Mon April 11, 2011

World Bank: Fight Poverty with Political Reform

The global economy has largely recovered from the crisis of 2008, but when finance ministers from around the world gather in Washington this week, they will still face sobering challenges. World trade talks are on the verge of collapse, and the uprisings in the Arab world show that unemployment and corruption can shake up governments that otherwise seem stable.

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