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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National Security
2:42 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 12:04 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.

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Middle East
1:26 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 2:24 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
12:56 am
Thu May 10, 2012

Cybersecurity Firms Ditch Defense, Learn To 'Hunt'

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 11:19 am

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
1:35 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 7:02 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
12:27 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Bill Would Have Businesses Foot Cost Of Cyber War

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 8:20 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
12:59 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 7:21 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
2:40 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 5:03 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
10:01 pm
Wed March 7, 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 7:10 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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Middle East
3:57 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

U.S. To Israel: Iran Is Feeling Heat From Sanctions

Originally published on Sun March 4, 2012 6:41 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.

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Politics
9:55 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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Asia
3:29 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 1:09 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.

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Europe
3:48 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.

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Middle East
10:01 pm
Tue January 24, 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 8:44 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.

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Europe
4:22 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.

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Europe
10:01 pm
Wed January 18, 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 8:36 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.

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Technology
1:00 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Who Should Control The Internet? Some Say The U.N.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, is forging ahead with plans to sell new domain categories despite vocal opposition. The decision raises questions about who should govern the Internet.
mipan iStockphoto.com

For the first time, organizations can apply for an Internet address all their own, marking the start of a new era in the growth of the Internet.

For example, ".com" and ".org" could be replaced by ".starbucks" or ".newyork."

The expansion was planned by the one organization empowered to regulate the global Internet — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

Debate over the new policy has highlighted the key issue of who, if anyone, should control the Internet.

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National Security
4:10 am
Sun January 8, 2012

U.S., Iran Play Economic Knockdown

A member of the Iranian military takes position in a military exercise on the shore of the Sea of Oman in December.
Mohammad Ali Marizad AP

Originally published on Sat January 14, 2012 7:09 am

Tensions with Iran these days are as high as they've been in years, and managing them will be one of the top challenges facing the Obama administration this year. With Iran threatening to block U.S. ships from entering the Persian Gulf, and the United States vowing not to back down, the stage seems to be set for war. And yet, what's happening with Iran right now may be more of an economic confrontation than a military standoff.

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World
4:48 am
Tue January 3, 2012

Regime Changes May Lead To Dangerous New Year

Big changes in 2011 — from the Arab Spring to the death of North Korea's dictator — create opportunities for 2012. But change can be scary, even when the regimes to be replaced are unpopular or repressive, because there's never a guarantee the new regime will be better.

Middle East
10:01 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

White House Faces Tough Choice On Iran Sanctions

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 8:35 am

Let Iran off the hook or undermine the global economy? Slap sanctions on an Iranian energy company or provide Europe with an alternative to Russian gas? Washington policymaking is especially difficult when the aims conflict, and few cases illustrate that principle more clearly than the challenge of finding a way to punish Iran without hurting someone else.

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World
3:21 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire

Reporters interview Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Ghasemi before the start of the 160th meeting of the OPEC Conference in Vienna, Dec. 14. The global market for oil complicates the issue of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Xu Liang Xinhua /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 5:40 pm

The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad.

But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.

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World
3:24 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

U.S. Considers Sanctions On Iran's Central Bank

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves in Pakdasht, southeast of Tehran, Nov. 23. Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said he was surprised at European moves to isolate Tehran's central bank.
HO Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 9:13 pm

Iran has been dealing with economic sanctions for years, but the country could soon face measures tougher than anything it has encountered before: Legislation moving through the U.S. Congress would target the central bank of Iran, with the likely effect of severely limiting Iran's oil exports.

Such sanctions would almost certainly damage Iran's economy. The challenge would be to make sure other countries are not hurt as well, given the fragile state of the global economy and the tight global oil market.

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World
2:31 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Security Expert: U.S. 'Leading Force' Behind Stuxnet

German cybersecurity expert Ralph Langner warns that U.S. utility companies are not yet prepared to deal with the threat presented by the Stuxnet computer worm, which he says the U.S. developed.
Courtesy of Langner Communications

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 2:00 pm

One year ago, German cybersecurity expert Ralph Langner announced that he had found a computer worm designed to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran. It's called Stuxnet, and it was the most sophisticated worm Langner had ever seen.

In the year since, Stuxnet has been analyzed as a cyber-superweapon, one so dangerous it might even harm those who created it.

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Europe
10:01 pm
Sun September 18, 2011

Europe's Dilemma: More Integration Or Less?

European governments seem to be having a hard time deciding whether to come together or drift apart at a time of economic uncertainty.

Years from now, historians will no doubt say this was a crisis waiting to happen. The people who came up with the idea of a eurozone stopped halfway. The participating countries would use a common currency, but they wouldn't have common tax and spending policies — a monetary union but not a fiscal union.

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Afghanistan
10:01 pm
Thu September 15, 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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National Security
3:38 am
Sat September 3, 2011

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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Europe
2:40 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Germans Debate The Cost Of Keeping A Eurozone

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

Originally published on Mon August 15, 2011 4:36 pm

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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Economy
2:31 pm
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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Economy
3:00 am
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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