Martin Kaste

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy, as well as news from the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to general assignment reporting in the U.S., Kaste has contributed to NPR News coverage of major world events, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 uprising in Libya.

Kaste has reported on the government's warrant-less wiretapping practices as well as the data-collection and analysis that go on behind the scenes in social media and other new media. His privacy reporting was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 United States v. Jones ruling concerning GPS tracking.

Before moving to the West Coast, Kaste spent five years as NPR's reporter in South America. He covered the drug wars in Colombia, the financial meltdown in Argentina, the rise of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the fall of Haiti's president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Throughout this assignment, Kaste covered the overthrow of five presidents in five years.

Prior to joining NPR in 2000, Kaste was a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul for seven years.

Kaste is a graduate of Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Police officers in New York City are not working as hard as usual.

For the past two weeks, the number of arrests, summonses and tickets issued has dropped dramatically, and many consider it a purposeful slowdown by officers who are angry at Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The federal government is throwing the book at one of the most vocal critics of the polygraph test.

Doug Williams, a man who makes his living teaching people how to beat the test, will go on trial in January on charges of witness tampering and mail fraud. But Williams' defenders say he's being punished by a government that has become overly dependent on polygraphs.

Since the Ferguson, Mo., shooting, there have been renewed calls for police departments to hire more minority officers, but it turns out it's not that simple.

Police in the U.S. are more diverse than they were a generation ago. In the 1980s, 1 in 6 officers belonged to an ethnic or racial minority. Now it's about 1 in 4. The challenge these days is finding enough recruits to keep that trend going.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit

When Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving meal, most tables will feature traditional fare: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries. But should you be looking for a different kind of holiday meal, head for rural Alaska.

That's where Nellie Gamechuck lives, in a village squeezed between tundra and a bend in the river in the southwest part of the state. Ask her what's for dinner on Thanksgiving, and she opens up the deep freeze. "Walrus meat, moose meat," she says. Digging down through the layers, she reaches the dessert level: salmonberries.

It was already known that the FBI uses spyware to investigate people — that was clear in federal documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. What hasn't been fully appreciated until now was the lengths to which the FBI will go to infect a target's computer.

"Presumably, your typical Nigerian scam email offering $10 million dollars isn't going to work," says Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU.

The protests that followed the shooting death this month of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., have rekindled long-standing complaints about racist policing, especially in the St Louis area.

Many male African-American residents there say police scrutinize them unfairly. "Every time you see a cop, it's like, 'OK, am I going to get messed with?' " says Anthony Ross. "You feel that every single time you get behind your car. Every time."

Now, police officers in and around St. Louis are becoming more vocal about defending themselves against the charges of bias.

Body-worn video cameras are quickly becoming standard-issue for American police, especially at departments in the process of reform. And in New Orleans, the troubled police department is now requiring almost all officers to wear the cameras.

The city's police department has a dark history of corruption, racism and brutality. The low point may have been the Danziger Bridge episode, after Hurricane Katrina, when police shot unarmed people, then covered up the crime.

These days, the department is trying to rebuild the public's trust — which is where the body cameras come in.

Montana resident Markus Kaarma pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of murdering a German exchange student last month. Kaarma shot the 17-year-old while the student was trespassing in his garage. The case has attracted international scrutiny to the contentious debate over how far Americans may go when defending their homes.

The people who design marketing apps are celebrating a change in the way iBeacon works on iPhones. That's the Bluetooth-based system that lets a store track a customer's movements, and capitalize on them. For instance, if iBeacon detects you lingering in the shoe department, it might send you a digital coupon for socks.

New software and gizmos are revolutionizing police work, with social media scanners, facial recognition and other high tech items. As it turns out, though, the single most valuable new police tool is your smartphone.

Contractors working for the state of Washington are planning a high-stakes operation to rescue Bertha — the world's largest tunneling machine.

Bertha is supposed to be boring a 2-mile highway tunnel under downtown Seattle, but it got stuck in December.

Bertha is on Seattle's waterfront, between South Main and South Jackson streets, about 60 feet straight down. At first, they thought the machine was being stymied by a big glacial rock. Then attention focused on the chewed-up remains of a metal pipe. But now it seems Bertha's ailment is mechanical.

Social monitoring started in the world of marketing, allowing companies to track what people were saying about their brands. But now, with software that allows users to scan huge volumes of public postings on social media, police are starting to embrace it as well.

Many police departments in Britain use a product sold by CrowdControlHQ. CEO James Leavesley calls it a "social media risk media and monitoring" company, meant primarily as a means of staying in touch with the public. But Leavesley says it's also a way to detect trouble.

Police are like the rest of us; they suffer from information overload. The data pour in from 21st century sources ranging from license plate readers to Twitter. But as the information comes in, it hits an old-fashioned bottleneck: human beings.

When I heard late Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder had come out in favor of bank accounts for state-sanctioned pot businesses, I assumed the industry would react with cheers. After all, they've long complained about being black-balled by banks, which are justifiably afraid of violating federal laws against handling drug money.

But when I started calling around today, the reactions ranged from "That's nice" to "Meh."

Ever wonder what happened with Bertha — the world's biggest tunneling machine, stuck under Seattle? We last checked in on the story right before Christmas, when engineers were preparing to send down inspection teams to identify the blockage. People (OK, the media) were having a grand time, floating ridiculous guesses about what the mysterious object might be. An old ship? Dinosaur bones? Bigfoot?

One month later, there's still no clear answer. Certainly nothing headline-grabbing.

If you think the recent liberalization of marijuana laws around the country is only about smoking leaves and buds, think again. For users younger than 25, "hash oil" is where it's really at. This concentrated resin of marijuana is creating new public safety headaches — even in places where it's legal.

There have always been forms of the substance, but the resins available today are much stronger than in years past. That's due in part to the expertise developed by medical marijuana producers, who have learned how to make more potent versions of the oil.

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

This year, for the first time, national polls show a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Gallup has been asking the question for four decades, and now it says 58 percent favor legalization.

Washington residents thinking about jumping into the state's new legal marijuana industry need to act soon. The deadline to apply for a state license to sell recreational pot is Dec. 19, and the applications are flooding in.

Danielle Rosellison, a loan officer in Bellingham, Wash., applied for her pot-growing license on the first day. "It's so cool," she says, laughing. "We have butterflies in our stomach all the time. I feel like they're all shot up on adrenaline."

To Rosellison and her husband, a stay-at-home dad, legal marijuana is an opportunity to change their lives.

Marijuana legalization is back on the ballot this year. California voters defeated a legalization proposal in 2010, but now similar measures have cropped up in three more Western states. This time around, some of the most intense opposition is coming from the earlier pioneers of legalization — the medical marijuana industry.

Police departments have come under increased scrutiny from the Obama administration as the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division steps up investigations of corruption, bias and excessive force.

Some of the targeted law enforcement agencies have had ethical clouds hanging over them for years — the New Orleans Police Department being the prime example — but others, like the Seattle Police Department, aren't exactly usual suspects.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pulled ahead of his rivals in Washington State's presidential straw poll on Saturday, with more than one-third of the votes. Romney finished well ahead of Ron Paul, who himself squeaked past Rick Santorum by just over 500 votes. Newt Gingrich had to settle for about one vote in 10.

There's an old joke: The two happiest days in a man's life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it.

That's certainly been true for the owners of the Kalakala, a historic art deco ferry that currently resides in the Puget Sound. Launched in 1935, the vessel's trials and tribulations have become the stuff of legend in Seattle.

For some of America's lowest-paid workers, the new year means a pay raise. Some states set their own minimum wages, above the federal rate of $7.25 an hour, and that rekindles an old debate over whether minimum wages make sense — especially at a time of high unemployment.

Like several other states, Washington state's minimum wage is indexed to the cost of living. This year, the formula has raised the statewide minimum from $8.67 to $9.04 an hour, making it the nation's highest statewide rate.

Parts of the U.S. are seeing a drop-off in vaccination rates among young children. The falling rates don't necessarily track with poverty or other poor public health trends; in fact, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report flagged the poorest rates of kindergarten vaccination in relatively prosperous states, like Washington and Oregon.

A few weeks ago, Amanda Stanton's iPhone suddenly went black.

She had been talking on it and navigating with a GPS app during a work trip to Los Angeles. Then, without any warning or error message, the phone quit.

Everything was gone -- all her contacts, photos and even the phone's ability to make calls.

It was only after she got home to Silicon Valley that she found out that her phone had been killed by her employer, a publishing company.

Destruction Via E-Mail