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.

At the heart of Peace Officer, a new documentary out this month, stands a man named William "Dub" Lawrence. A former sheriff, Lawrence comes off as a somber figure — a man capable of calmly reconstructing the death of his suicidal son-in-law, who was shot in a standoff with a SWAT team in 2008.

But when you meet Lawrence, it's impossible not to note just how much the man grins — as in, big, toothy, Jimmy Carter-level grins.

"That's my best weapon," he says. "If I smile, they will usually not punch me in the face."

The ambush-style murder of Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth at a gas station in suburban Houston on Aug. 29 has added new urgency to warnings about a growing "war on cops" in America. After the arrest of the suspect, an African-American man named Shannon J. Miles, the local district attorney called for more public support for law enforcement.

The phrase "police militarization" conjures up an image of cops wrapped in Kevlar, barging into homes with semi-automatic weapons. But familiar as that image is, we don't know how common it is. There are simply no good statistics on police tactical operations in America. The federal government doesn't keep track, and neither do the states — with one exception: Utah.

When Washington state legalized recreational marijuana, people wondered if it would mean more stoned drivers on the roads. Two and a half years later, one trend is clear: Police are arresting more drivers with pot in their systems — but what's not clear yet is what that means for traffic safety.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is trying to close all the city's hookah lounges.

Hookahs are the Middle Eastern water pipes used for smoking flavored tobacco, and the lounges have caught on in some parts of the country. Health risks from smoking aside, the city believes the lounges are also magnets for violent crime.

The legal justification for this crackdown is the state's ban on indoor smoking in public places, but the reasons go beyond smoking.