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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Religion
3:09 am
Fri July 17, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Raises Questions Of Religious Rights, Tax Status

Originally published on Sun July 19, 2015 12:00 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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It's All Politics
10:23 am
Fri July 10, 2015

Pastors Eye A Move From God's House To The Statehouse

"Somebody's values are going to reign supreme," said David Lane, who has organized political training sessions for evangelical pastors. "We want people with our values to be elected to office and to represent our interests there."
Brandon Thibodeaux Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 15, 2015 2:11 pm

Many ministers do their best to stay away from politics when they preach, but hundreds of conservative pastors around the country are so upset about what they see as a moral crisis in government that they are preparing to run for public office themselves, with the goal of bringing "biblical values" to the political arena.

The initiative is led by David Lane, a born-again Christian and self-described "political operative" who has organized four large-scale training sessions in which evangelical pastors are tutored in the practical aspects of running a political campaign.

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National Security
3:10 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

Why Are Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military?

Army Cpl. Simranpreet Lamba (center) stands in formation with fellow soldiers before taking the oath of citizenship, prior to his graduation from basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in 2010. He was the first enlisted soldier to be granted a religious accommodation as a Sikh since 1984.
Brett Flashnick AP

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 6:24 pm

If a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf at work, as the U.S. Supreme Court has now affirmed, perhaps a Sikh man should be able to wear a turban while serving in the U.S. military.

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Parallels
1:23 am
Thu April 30, 2015

Learning About The Quran ... From A Catholic Archbishop

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald is one of the Catholic Church's top experts on Islam. He has served the Vatican in places such as Tunisia, Uganda and Egypt, and now is promoting interfaith understanding by teaching Jesuit students in Cleveland about the Quran.
Rob Wetzler

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 1:11 pm

As a 12-year-old Catholic boy growing up in England, Michael Fitzgerald decided he wanted to be a missionary in Africa. Eight years later, he was studying theology and learning Arabic in Tunisia.

He went on to devote his priestly ministry to the promotion of interfaith understanding between Muslims and Christians, and became one of the top Roman Catholic experts on Islam. He has served as the archbishop of Tunisia, the papal nuncio — effectively a Vatican ambassador — in Cairo, and the Vatican's delegate to the Arab League.

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Religion
4:00 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Muslims Will Outnumber Christians This Century, Pew Says

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 5:27 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Religion
4:01 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Church Of Scientology Calls New HBO Documentary 'Bigoted'

The HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief airs Sunday — over the vigorous objection of Scientology officials.
Courtesy of HBO

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 6:01 pm

The Church of Scientology is famous for its efforts to silence its critics, but it has not blocked an upcoming HBO film that turns a harsh light on the powerful organization and its leadership.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, directed by Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, will debut Sunday over the vigorous objection of Scientology officials.

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The Two-Way
10:43 am
Thu February 26, 2015

Pew Study On Religion Finds Increased Harassment Of Jews

Boys in Uppsala, Sweden, read supportive messages placed at the entrance of a mosque following an attack in January. A new Pew study finds that religious intolerance is a global problem, with Muslims facing more hostility from individuals, and Christians from governments. Targeting of Jews, the study found, has gotten worse over in recent years.
Anders Wiklund AP

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:42 pm

Updated at 2 p.m. ET.

This week, a man was sentenced to die in Saudi Arabia because he renounced his faith in Islam; a Hindu leader in India made a new accusation against Mother Teresa; a mosque near Bethlehem was set on fire.

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Religion
4:20 am
Fri February 20, 2015

More Muslim Groups Voice Willingness To Combat Extremism In Their Faith

Mohamed Magid, imam with the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, speaks during in September during an anti-extremism news conference. He says that if someone with dangerous views comes to his mosque, he first tries to correct them, but reports them to authorities if necessary.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 6:10 am

The reluctance of President Obama and others to link Middle East terrorism explicitly to Islam at this week's "Countering Violent Extremism" summit exposed them to withering criticism, and not entirely from conservatives. Some Muslim reformers who have been struggling to combat radicalism in their mosques and communities have been willing to talk about the extremist ideologies they encounter.

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Religion
7:23 am
Sun February 15, 2015

Some See Extreme 'Anti-Theism' As Motive In N.C. Killings

This image provided by the Durham County Sheriff's Office shows a booking photo of Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who was arrested on three counts of murder early Wednesday. On his Facebook page, Hicks described himself as a gun-toting atheist.
Durham County Sheriff's Office AP

Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 10:49 am

Outrage over the murder of three young Muslim Americans in North Carolina last week has gone international. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Saturday that the killings reflected "Islamophobia" and "bear the symptoms of a hate crime," but local authorities say they don't yet know what motivated the murders.

The man held responsible for the killings is an avowed atheist. Whether that's relevant in this case is not clear, but some experts see a new extremism developing among some atheists.

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Politics
2:47 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

New Government Agency Designed To Tackle Cyber Threats More Effectively

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 10:29 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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National Security
11:17 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Obama Highlights Challenges Of Balancing Security, Liberty

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 11:39 am

Coverage of President Obama's speech about proposed changes for the National Security Agency continues with more of his comments, plus analysis.

National Security
3:11 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Senate Committee Lays Blame For Benghazi With State Department

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:44 pm

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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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National Security
2:56 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Surveillance Controversy: NSA Versus Tech Companies

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 10:18 am

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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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National Security
4:04 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Is U.S. Ready Rethink Sept. 11 Security Policies?

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 5:52 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. President Obama says he will soon propose changes at the National Security Agency. Former contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of NSA surveillance programs widespread criticism and prompted a review of the agency's operations by Congress, the courts, and the White House. NPR's Tom Gjelten looks at whether the country is now at a turning point, ready to rethink the security policies in place since 9/11.

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Middle East
3:03 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Iran's Nuclear Deal Faces Big Test

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are scheduled to visit Iran's heavy-water reactor in the city of Arak on Sunday as part of an international deal on the country's nuclear program.
Hamid Forutan EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 12:39 pm

The nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers will face its first test this weekend. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are due to make a long-delayed visit to a nuclear site in Iran where plutonium could be produced.

A nuclear reactor and associated production plant in Arak are a special concern because plutonium can be used in a nuclear bomb. Under last month's accord, Iran promised to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Officials on both sides say they are committed to the nuclear deal, but keeping it on track will be a challenge.

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All Tech Considered
2:32 am
Wed November 20, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 10:51 am

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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All Tech Considered
12:54 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Technology Outpacing Policymakers, Needs Of NSA

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

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 4:15 am

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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The Two-Way
2:25 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

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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The Two-Way
3:45 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

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

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 4:12 pm

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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National Security
3:07 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

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

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 6:01 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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NPR Story
4:01 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Partisan Squabbles Raise Questions Over U.S. Global Influence

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

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 5:39 pm

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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Parallels
4:12 am
Sun October 20, 2013

You Have Questions About The NSA; We Have Answers

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

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 2:48 pm

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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Parallels
12:56 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Are We Moving To A World With More Online Surveillance?

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

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 9:04 am

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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Africa
5:57 am
Sat September 28, 2013

Al-Shabab Shifts Focus From Territory To Terrorism

Originally published on Sat September 28, 2013 2:05 pm

Al-Shabab has been around for years as a militia group fighting for territory in Somalia.

When al-Shabab militants, dressed in casual clothes, turned up in a ritzy shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last weekend and gunned down men, women and children, the group shifted from an insurgent movement to a terrorist organization.

"A week ago, al-Shabab wasn't in the news," says Bruce Hoffman, a a terrorism expert at Georgetown University and the Rand Corporation. "Arguably, outside of Somalia, no one really cared about them."

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National Security
3:24 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

The Effects Of The Snowden Leaks Aren't What He Intended

Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's secret surveillance program have pushed the agency to expedite planned reforms ahead of schedule, according to NSA officials.
Maxim Shemetov Reuters/Landov

An official assessment of the damage caused by news leaks about government surveillance programs suggests that terrorist groups are changing their communication methods in response to the disclosures, according to officials at the National Security Agency.

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National Security
1:19 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Officials: Edward Snowden's Leaks Were Masked By Job Duties

Government officials tell NPR that Edward Snowden's job responsibilities allowed him to copy sensitive files unnoticed.
Maxim Shemetov Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 8:58 am

More than three months after Edward Snowden revealed details of NSA secret surveillance activities, intelligence officials are still assessing the fallout from the former contractor's disclosures. But they already know how the leaks happened.

"We have an extremely good idea of exactly what data he got access to and how exactly he got access to it," says the NSA's chief technology officer, Lonny Anderson.

In interviews with NPR, two government officials shared that part of the Snowden story in one of the most detailed discussions of the episode to date.

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Technology
3:24 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Firms Brace For Possible Retaliatory Cyberattacks From Syria

With the possibility of a strike on Syrian targets, U.S. firms are trying to protect themselves from cyberattacks that may follow.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 7:18 pm

The prospect of a military strike against Syria in the next few days has private U.S. firms bracing for retaliation — in cyberspace.

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National Security
2:43 am
Thu August 22, 2013

FISA Court: NSA Surveillance Program Was Unconstitutional

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

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All Tech Considered
12:57 am
Thu August 15, 2013

The Next Disaster Scenario Power Companies Are Preparing For

Part of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant in Lewiston, N.Y., is seen from the air on Aug. 14, 2003, during a massive power outage that stretched from New York to Detroit and into Canada.
David Duprey AP

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 6:49 am

In the 10 years since sagging power lines in Ohio sparked a blackout across much of the Northeastern United States and Canada, utility engineers say they have implemented measures to prevent another such event in the country's electric grid.

But there is one disaster scenario for which the power companies are still unprepared: a massive attack on the computer networks that underlie the U.S. electric grid.

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News
3:43 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Which Citizens Are Under More Surveillance, U.S. Or European?

Protesters demonstrate against alleged NSA surveillance in Germany during a rally in Hannover, Germany, on Saturday.
Peter Steffen AP

Originally published on Sun July 28, 2013 10:31 am

The disclosure of of previously secret NSA surveillance programs has been met by outrage in Europe. The European Parliament even threatened to delay trade talks with the United States.

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