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.



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.

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.



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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.




This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Just after Edward Snowden first leaked secrets about government surveillance, he gave an interview to two journalists while he was hiding out in Hong Kong. Yesterday, The Guardian newspaper released more of that interview with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

GREENE: In that video, Snowden discusses why he exposed the surveillance programs.


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.



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


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.



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


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.

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.

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.

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.

In practical terms, a project known as E-1 would provide 3,000 or so new housing units for Israelis in an area between east Jerusalem — which the Palestinians hope will someday be their capital — and the large Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

But numbers can be deceiving: Palestinians are renewing their objections to the growing number of Israeli settlements, and many fear E-1 could tip the balance in a way that makes an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement impossible.

It's no picnic being a kidney patient even in the best conditions. But coming in for dialysis in a place like the Gaza Strip calls for a special kind of patience.

Years of war have placed a constant stress on the health system there. Thanks to a host of factors, Gaza's main hospital, Shifa Hospital, regularly faces supply shortages of medications that kidney patients need to manage nausea and other symptoms.

The streets of Gaza are busy, but they are also crumbling.

Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has maintained tight limits on shipments of anything that could be used for military purposes. That includes basic building materials that could be used for bunkers and rocket launching sites.

Ask businessman Ali Abdel Aal what's the toughest thing for him to find, and he'll tell you "cement and gravel."

The Academy Award-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras tells the story of Bil'in, a modest Palestinian village perilously close to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

After the Israeli government began putting up its West Bank separation barrier, Bil'in resident Emad Burnat picked up a video camera, and in 2005 began a multiyear documentary project.

Police in Jerusalem on Monday detained 10 women for wearing the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl traditionally worn by men, while praying at the Western Wall.

The Women of the Wall have been fighting for years for permission to worship in the manner that men do at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism for prayer. The stone structure is part of the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.