Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten covers issues of religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and social and cultural conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

In 1986, Gjelten became one of NPR's pioneer foreign correspondents, posted first in Latin America and then in Central Europe. In the years that followed, he covered the wars in Central America, social and political strife in South America, the first Gulf War, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe and the former 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).

After returning from his overseas assignments, 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 early war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years. 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." His new book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (Simon & Schuster), recounts the impact on America of the 1965 Immigration Act, which officially opened the country's doors to immigrants of color.

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work, including two Overseas Press Club Awards, a George Polk Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a regular panelist on the PBS program "Washington Week," and a member of the editorial board at World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and freelance writer.

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5:53pm

Wed January 15, 2014
National Security

Senate Committee Lays Blame For Benghazi With State Department

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Senate Intelligence Committee today delivered its analysis of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. It's a bipartisan report. Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed, among other things, that the attack might have been prevented if the State Department had taken better precautions at the Benghazi post.

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4:56am

Mon January 13, 2014
National Security

Surveillance Controversy: NSA Versus Tech Companies

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 12:18 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Obama is expected to announce Friday how he wants to reform surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Those previously secret programs were exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. American technology companies are among those pushing hardest for change. Having been caught up in the surveillance controversy, they are braced for battle. NPR's Tom Gjelten dubs that battle the NSA versus the techs.

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3:23am

Wed November 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

Profit, Not Just Principle, Has Tech Firms Concerned With NSA

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 12:51 pm

Google and five other companies sent a letter last month to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee supporting legislation to reform NSA surveillance programs.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Along with the privacy advocates and the national security establishment, there is another set of players with strong views on NSA surveillance programs: U.S. tech companies.

Google and five other companies weighed in on the surveillance debate last month, sending a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supporting legislation to reform National Security Agency surveillance programs.

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2:54am

Tue November 19, 2013
All Tech Considered

Technology Outpacing Policymakers, Needs Of NSA

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 6:15 am

Gen. Keith Alexander is director of the National Security Agency, whose duty, his office has said, "requires us to attempt to collect terrorist communications wherever they traverse global infrastructure."
Evan Vucci AP

The controversy over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs has exposed a problem in the oversight of those programs: The development of the relevant technology has outpaced the laws and policies that govern its use.

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4:25pm

Fri November 15, 2013
The Two-Way

U.S. Tech Firms May Be Feeling Bite From NSA Spying Reports

Recent disclosures about NSA surveillance have affected U.S. relations with allies and tainted America's image around the world. Now the fallout seems to be creeping into the U.S. tech sector.

Cisco Systems, which manufactures network equipment, posted disappointing first-quarter numbers this week and warned that revenues for the current quarter could drop as much as 10 percent from a year ago — partly as a consequence of the NSA revelations.

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6:12pm

Wed November 13, 2013
The Two-Way

Intelligence Officials Aim To Pre-Empt More Surveillance Leaks

U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a conference at the Ronald Reagan Building, in October.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

NSA officials are bracing for more surveillance disclosures from the documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden — and they want to get out in front of the story.

In a recent speech, NSA Director Keith Alexander said Snowden may have taken as many as 200,000 NSA documents with him when he left his post in Hawaii. If so, the vast majority of them have yet to be released.

Intelligence officials tell NPR they believe Snowden's secrets fall into four categories:

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4:37pm

Wed November 13, 2013
National Security

Who Gets The Blame For NSA Spying? NSA Says Not Us

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 8:01 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Over at the NSA, officials say they welcome the president's policy review on surveillance. But they and other intelligence leaders bristle at the idea that they've overstepped their bounds in gathering information, both here and abroad. For months, the NSA has been on the defensive as a result of the Snowden disclosures.

NPR's Tom Gjelten says the agency is now trying to get out in front of the story.

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6:01pm

Wed October 23, 2013
NPR Story

Partisan Squabbles Raise Questions Over U.S. Global Influence

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 7:39 pm

The U.S. Capitol is shown at sunset on Oct. 15, the 15th day of a government shutdown that some analysts say damaged the U.S. reputation worldwide.
Win McNamee Getty Images

The U.S. performance on the global stage has looked a little rocky in the past few weeks.

The Obama administration had to let Russia take a lead in managing the security challenge in Syria. The United States was also embarrassed when allies like Germany, France and Brazil reacted angrily to the news that the National Security Agency had monitored their leaders' communications.

Finally, the government shutdown and the congressional fight over the debt ceiling prompted critical comments about U.S. political dysfunction.

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6:12am

Sun October 20, 2013
Parallels

You Have Questions About The NSA; We Have Answers

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 4:48 pm

A sign outside the National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md.
Patrick Semansky AP

Four months have passed since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began spilling secrets about the NSA's surveillance programs, but many Americans still don't know what to think about the disclosures.

For good reason. The surveillance programs are highly technical, involving the bulk interception of huge volumes of communication data as they traverse multiple links and networks. The laws governing what the NSA can do are complex and open to conflicting interpretations.

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2:56am

Wed October 16, 2013
Parallels

Are We Moving To A World With More Online Surveillance?

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 11:04 am

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was angered by reports that the National Security Agency was spying on her. She has called for giving individual countries greater control over the Internet.
Getty Images

Many governments around the world have expressed outrage over the National Security Agency's use of the Internet as a spying platform. But the possible response may have an unforeseen consequence: It may actually lead to more online surveillance, according to Internet experts.

Some governments, led most recently by Brazil, have reacted to recent disclosures about NSA surveillance by proposing a redesign of Internet architecture. The goal would be to give governments more control over how the Internet operates within their own borders.

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