Larry Abramson

Larry Abramson is NPR's National Security Correspondent. He covers the Pentagon, as well as issues relating to the thousands of vets returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Prior to his current role, Abramson was NPR's Education Correspondent covering a wide variety of issues related to education, from federal policy to testing to instructional techniques in the classroom. His reporting focused on the impact of for-profit colleges and universities, and on the role of technology in the classroom. He made a number of trips to New Orleans to chart the progress of school reform there since Hurricane Katrina. Abramson also covers a variety of news stories beyond the education beat.

In 2006, Abramson returned to the education beat after spending nine years covering national security and technology issues for NPR. Since 9/11, Abramson has covered telecommunications regulation, computer privacy, legal issues in cyberspace, and legal issues related to the war on terrorism.

During the late 1990s, Abramson was involved in several special projects related to education. He followed the efforts of a school in Fairfax County, Virginia, to include severely disabled students in regular classroom settings. He joined the National Desk reporting staff in 1997.

For seven years prior to his position as a reporter on the National Desk, Abramson was senior editor for NPR's National Desk. His department was responsible for approximately 25 staff reporters across the United States, five editors in Washington, and news bureaus in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The National Desk also coordinated domestic news coverage with news departments at many of NPR's member stations. The desk doubled in size during Abramson's tenure. He oversaw the development of specialized beats in general business, high-technology, workplace issues, small business, education, and criminal justice.

Abramson joined NPR in 1985 as a production assistant with Morning Edition. He moved to the National Desk, where he served for two years as Western editor. From there, he became the deputy science editor with NPR's Science Unit, where he helped win a duPont-Columbia Award as editor of a special series on Black Americans and AIDS.

Prior to his work at NPR, Abramson was a freelance reporter in San Francisco and worked with Voice of America in California and in Washington, D.C.

He has a master's degree in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. Abramson also studied overseas at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and at the Free University in Berlin, Germany.

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National Security
12:55 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Air Force's Beloved 'Warthog' Targeted For Retirement

The U.S. Air Force could retire the A-10 "Warthog," despite support for the plane from infantrymen and pilots. These types of clashes occur whenever the military tries to mothball a weapon.
Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman U.S. Air Force

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 5:04 pm

Jeff Duford is standing next to an A-10, one of the most beloved planes of all time. It's painted green, a clue that it was designed for a threat that has disappeared — it was built at the height of the Cold War.

"The reason why it's painted this way is because at that time, this airframe was expected to stop Soviet tanks from rolling through Germany," says Duford, curator of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. "So it's painted to kind of match the terrain that one would find in Central Europe."

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The Two-Way
9:48 am
Tue December 10, 2013

In Qatar, Hagel Tours Command Center That May Or May Not Exist

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar on Tuesday morning, the last leg of a tour that has also taken him to Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

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NPR Story
2:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Karzai's Political Games Overshadow Hagel's Visit To Afghanistan

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 8:45 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel returned to the Middle East today, after a weekend tour of Afghanistan and a stop in Pakistan. Hagel's visit to Afghanistan was overshadowed by continuing difficulties with President Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan has not yet agreed to terms that would allow U.S. forces to stay there beyond 2014. As NPR's Larry Abramson reports, Afghanistan is not the only country where the U.S. faces questions about its military staying power.

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The Two-Way
12:10 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Google Says It's Getting Far More User-Data Requests From Government

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 12:11 pm

Google says the number of requests it gets from the U.S. government for user information is rising — fast.

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Parallels
11:30 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Who Owns The Archives Of A Vanishing Iraqi Jewish World?

This colorfully illustrated French and Hebrew Passover Haggadah was published in Vienna in 1930. Caption on the image: "Eating Matzah." This restored document is part of an exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., that opens Nov. 8.
National Archives

Originally published on Sun November 10, 2013 10:22 am

When U.S. troops entered the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police building in Baghdad a decade ago, they were looking for weapons of mass destruction. They didn't find any.

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NPR Story
4:46 am
Sat November 2, 2013

A Controversial Week For The NSA

Originally published on Sat November 2, 2013 9:36 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week, the National Security Agency fought back against criticism of it's operations following leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden that have revealed some of the scale of the agency's surveillance of Americans and people overseas, including heads of state of U.S. allies. NPR's Larry Abramson has been covering the story and joins us. Larry, thanks so much for being with us.

LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: Hi Scott.

SIMON: Bring us up to date. What happened this week that's pushed the scandal into the news again?

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U.S.
4:20 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Pentagon Pushes States On Benefits For Same-Sex Couples

The Pentagon extended military benefits to same-sex spouses this summer, but some states have been resisting. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called that resistance "wrong" on Thursday.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 4:49 pm

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has directed the National Guard Bureau to resolve a dispute that is making it difficult for same-sex couples to receive military benefits.

The Pentagon started to recognize same-sex marriages soon after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act this summer. But some states are resisting.

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The Two-Way
9:29 am
Tue October 29, 2013

READ: Bipartisan Bill To End NSA's Domestic Bulk Collection

Bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill about data from Americans' phone and Internet records being vacuumed up by the National Security Agency has led to an unusual alliance involving a prominent House Republican and a veteran Senate Democrat.

NPR's Larry Abramson writes that:

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All Tech Considered
12:56 am
Tue October 29, 2013

Who Has The Right To Know Where Your Phone Has Been?

Cell towers are constantly tracking the location of mobile phones. And that data, federal courts have ruled, is not constitutionally protected.
Steve Greer iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 5:49 am

You probably know, or should know, that your cellphone is tracking your location everywhere you go. But whether law enforcement officials should have access to that data is at the center of a constitutional debate.

Matt Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania, says location tracking is key to how the cell system operates.

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Around the Nation
1:23 am
Tue October 22, 2013

West Point Women: A Natural Pattern Or A Camouflage Ceiling?

At the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., the graduating class has been about 16 percent female since the institution first accepted women more than 30 years ago.
Mike Groll AP

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 9:53 am

At the 200-year-old U.S. Military Academy at West Point, tradition dictates everything. That includes the habit of having freshmen stand in the yard everyday and call cadets to lunch. It's also tradition that the overwhelming majority of the graduating class will be white and 84 percent male.

Some say those rates are due to natural patterns of matriculation.

"Women will naturally matriculate — or, they have naturally matriculated — into the academy at about the 16 to 17 percent rate," says West Point admissions director Col. Deborah McDonald.

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The Two-Way
2:38 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

FISA Court: We Approve 99 Percent Of Wiretap Applications

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 2:00 pm

A letter (pdf) released today by a special surveillance court clears up some misconceptions about legal oversight for government wiretap activities. Responding to a letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Pat Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court says, yes, it's true, we do approve 99% of all wiretap applications.

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The Two-Way
2:00 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

How The Shutdown Is Affecting The Military

Originally published on Tue October 1, 2013 4:52 pm

Larry Abramson, who covers national security for NPR, sent us this missive, about how the shutdown of the federal government is affecting the Pentagon:

If you are a soldier, sailor, airman or marine, you will be paid during a shutdown. But only half of civilian defense workers are supposed to show up for work, and the rest do not get paid.

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The Two-Way
5:19 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Is The U.S. Collecting Cellphone Location Data?

Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, in June 2013.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 5:16 am

Is the National Security Agency collecting cellphone tracking information on millions of Americans?

After a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, we still can't be sure. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has been trying to get intelligence officials to confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of such a program.

Remember, records of where your cellphone is located give a pretty good idea of where the owners are. Wyden asked NSA Director Keith Alexander about that at Thursday's hearing, and Alexander said, no — not under "the current program."

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The Two-Way
3:57 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

On Budget Issues, Pentagon's Rhetoric Is Challenged

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 4:06 pm

The budget battles in Washington have inspired the need for some verbal gymnastics that have challenged even the most adept doublespeakers at the Pentagon. As one member of the House pointed out today, some Pentagonians have insisted that Congress cannot cut a single additional dollar from defense, without endangering the national defense strategy.

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National Security
2:36 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

U.S. Mulls Over More Possible Targets For Syria Strike

The U.S. is considering adding helicopters to its list of potential targets of a military strike. Here, rebel fighters are seen on a Russian-made helicopter seized from the Syrian army at the Minnig Military Airport near the Turkish border on Aug. 11.
Mahmoud Hassano Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:20 pm

As U.S. lawmakers weigh whether to support an attack on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, military planners have expanded the target list for a potential strike.

The Pentagon had been focused on attacking Syria with so-called standoff weapons — cruise missiles, for example. Launched from ships, they can attack Syrian positions without placing American pilots in danger. Cruise missiles are very precise, and perfect for hitting fixed targets, such as command-and-control centers the Syrian military relies on.

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Politics
3:08 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Lawmakers Struggle With Wording Of Syria Resolution

Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 4:58 am

Congress is trying to fashion language that would restrict U.S. involvement in Syria from escalating. But lawmakers often find it uncomfortable to rein in the commander in chief once U.S. forces have been committed.

Parallels
9:39 am
Thu August 29, 2013

The Drums Of War, Poolside Edition

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, center, chains his hands with his counterparts from Vietnam, right, and Thailand before the ASEAN meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on Thursday. The trip's message: The U.S. is committed to its "rebalance" toward the Asia-Pacific region.
Vincent Thian AP

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 12:11 pm

NPR's Larry Abramson is traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is in Brunei's capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus, or ASEAN Plus. Larry sent us this dispatch:

You cannot hear the drums of war here in Brunei, but you can hear the surf from the Brunei coast, or the sounds of splashing from the humongous pools here at the Empire Hotel and Country Club.

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All Tech Considered
12:56 am
Thu August 22, 2013

How A Look At Your Gmail Reveals The Power Of Metadata

An MIT analysis of Larry Abramson's Gmail account illustrates his online relationships.
immersion.mit.media.edu

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 10:43 am

Sometimes you have to give up a little privacy in order to find out how much — or how little — privacy you really have. So I handed over the keys to my Gmail account to Cesar Hidalgo, a professor at the MIT Media Lab and the designer of a program called Immersion.

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National Security
3:24 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Drone Manufacturers Confident Domestic Industry Will Grow

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 6:53 am

Gathering in Washington, D.C., drone manufacturers say they are optimistic about their business, despite a downturn in defense spending. The unmanned vehicle industry is hopeful the domestic market will open up. But they first must address privacy concerns exacerbated by the NSA spying scandal.

The Two-Way
1:39 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

In A First, Unmanned Navy Jet Lands On Aircraft Carrier

A Navy X-47B drone, seen here last month being launched off the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush, successfully landed on the ship Wednesday, a first.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 10:10 am

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National Security
7:54 am
Sat July 6, 2013

Defense Contractors See Their Futures In Developing World

A mannequin in night-vision goggles is part of a display at a border-security expo in Pheonix last year. Defense companies are seeking growth in markets in the developing world, or in homeland and cybersecurity.
Amanda Meyers AP

Originally published on Sat July 6, 2013 3:12 pm

Defense manufacturers worldwide are facing tough times ahead, as tight budgets force Western governments to cut spending. But while the West is cutting back, developing countries around the world are spending more on defense — a lot more.

Last fall, defense contractors warned of massive layoffs if the U.S. government enacted the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Now, sequestration is in effect, but job losses are limited, in part because many Pentagon contracts were already in place and will keep assembly lines rolling for much of this year.

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Law
2:21 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Gay Military Spouses To Benefit From Supreme Court Ruling

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 3:01 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. The Supreme Court ruling yesterday on the Defense of Marriage Act will change the lives of many people, including some in the U.S. military. Gay spouses of service members have long been denied the substantial benefits available to heterosexual couples. Yesterday's ruling that struck down DOMA means gay married couples can look forward to more equal treatment from the Pentagon, as NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

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National Security
3:23 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Will Surveillance Disclosure Lead To More Oversight Of NSA?

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. The recent leaks revealing the extent of the National Security Agency surveillance programs came as news to many people. But some members of Congress have been warning for years that such surveillance could threaten the privacy of average Americans.

NPR's Larry Abramson reports that in the end, it was Congress that decided not to disclose details about these programs to the public.

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Law
4:12 am
Fri June 7, 2013

The History Behind America's Most Secretive Court

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court resides in this courthouse in Washington, D.C.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 8:52 am

This week The Guardian newspaper shared with its readers a document that few people ever get to see — an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court telling Verizon to share countless phone records with the National Security Agency. The White House would not confirm the existence of this surveillance effort, but it insisted Congress is fully briefed about such activities. Members of Congress confirmed that they knew.

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Around the Nation
1:32 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Air Force Trains Special Lawyers For Sexual Assault Victims

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 8:23 am

Many victims of sexual assault in the military say only one experience comes close to the pain of the actual crime, and that's going to court to bring charges against the attacker.

This is believed to be one reason why so few victims come forward and report these crimes, and now the Air Force is hoping a new team of lawyers will help to change that.

At Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, a tall three-star general stands in front of a class of JAG officers — Air Force lawyers. He tells them they are pioneers in a new field, and then lays a heavy responsibility on them.

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Parallels
10:51 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Women In Combat: Some Lessons From Israel's Military

Soldiers of Israel's 33rd Caracal Battalion take part in a graduation march in the northern part of the southern Israeli Negev desert on March 13. The Caracal was formed in 2004 with the chief purpose of giving women a chance to serve in a true combat role.
Menahem Kahana AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 8:39 am

As the U.S. moves to open up combat positions to women, it's catching up with other countries that have been doing it for years.

But the experience in these countries, including Israel, suggests that access to combat jobs doesn't lead directly to equal treatment within the ranks.

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National Security
1:31 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Women In Combat: Obstacles Remain As Exclusion Policy Ends

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 8:02 am

Wednesday's deadline for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to submit plans for ending the policy that keeps women from serving in ground combat positions will open up more than 200,000 positions in the military to them. But the change won't end questions about the role of women in the armed forces.

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The Sequester: Cuts And Consequences
3:29 am
Sat May 11, 2013

Sequester Has Air Force Clipping Its Wings

To save money, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina is keeping some of its pilots out of the sky.
Airman 1st Class Aubrey White U.S. Air Force

Originally published on Sat May 11, 2013 10:58 am

The Pentagon says the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration could leave the U.S. with a military that is simply unprepared for the most challenging combat missions. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress in April that the military is eating its seed corn.

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World
2:32 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Why Chemical Weapons Have Been A Red Line Since World War I

Soldiers with the British Machine Gun Corps wear gas masks in 1916 during World War I's first Battle of the Somme.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 5:48 pm

President Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons could change the U.S. response to the Syrian civil war. But why this focus on chemical weapons when conventional weapons have killed tens of thousands in Syria?

The answer can be traced back to the early uses of poison gas nearly a century ago.

In World War I, trench warfare led to stalemates — and to new weapons meant to break through the lines.

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The Two-Way
11:27 am
Thu March 21, 2013

With Obama In Ramallah, Palestinians Take To The Streets

Palestinians protest as U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinians Authority President Mahmud Abbas meet in Ramallah on Thursday.
Ilia Yefimovich Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 24, 2013 7:23 am

NPR's Larry Abramson is covering President Obama's visit to the Middle East. He sends this dispatch from the West Bank.

There were a lot of irritated Palestinians in the streets of Ramallah today. But it's hard to pinpoint the cause. Were they mad at President Obama, at Israel? Or were they angry at themselves?

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