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.



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.