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.

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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.

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Americans expect police to carry guns. In most places, it's just assumed that law enforcement is always armed. But not everywhere.

One of the last exceptions to the rule is the native communities of rural Alaska, such as Manokotak, a Yupik village of about 400 in southwest Alaska. Hunters and fishermen live there in modest houses huddled along a few roads.

In order to reach what Alaskans call "The Bush" — villages isolated across tundra — you'll need a bush pilot. That's where John Bouker comes in.

Most of Bouker's passengers are civilians he transports to and from Alaska's remote villages. He does his job with the nonchalance of a suburban dad in a minivan dropping his kids off at the mall.

On election night in a hotel ballroom in Anchorage, Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski picked up a chair and waved it over her head.

"I am the chairmaaaaaaaaaaan!" she shouted.

Taser International is reporting a big jump in demand by police departments for "body cameras." The company, one of the biggest providers of body cams to police departments, says 2014 sales of its "Axon Body" model are up 300 percent over last year, and sales of its more expensive "Axon Flex" camera have doubled.

And what's interesting is that this spike started well before the August shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

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.

Protests in Ferguson and New York this summer rekindled an old debate about how American police use force.

An appeals court ruling has offered a rare glimpse at the extent to which military police investigations reach into civilians' computers. Apparently, they scan civilian computers quite often — and to a degree that a 9th Circuit appeals court has now found violates the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act.

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.

The members of the Queen Anne Masonic Lodge near downtown Seattle are on the young side. The guy in charge is 26.

Danny Done, the lodge's worshipful master, is lounging on his designated chair in the room reserved for private ceremonies.

His title comes with a top hat, though he avoids putting it on — he says it makes him look dorky. But he does like other aspects of Masonic regalia, like his Templar sword. Done uses it to point to a diagram on the wall that charts out the different kinds of Masonry.

It was 80 degrees before 8 a.m. in St. Louis, but hundreds of people still lined up early to attend Michael Brown's funeral service Monday.

The 18-year-old was laid to rest at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, more than two weeks after his shooting death by a white police officer in the suburb of Ferguson, Mo. Brown's death touched off days of protests and violence in Ferguson.

His face was everywhere at the service, on T-shirts and silk-screened on the black ties worn by his male relatives.

It's been two weeks since Michael Brown was shot, and things on Ferguson's West Florissant Avenue have calmed down a lot. The street has a festive feel, like a county fair or a town square in the old days. Locals sit on lawn chairs, kids are out on their bikes, a BBQ truck belches sweet smoke, and people watch the core group of protestors — 15 people or so — walking their block-long circuit, chanting, "Hands up! Don't Shoot!"

Ferguson, Mo., found a degree of civic calm this week after days and nights of angry clashes between protestors and the police.

Now the city is working to restore trust with residents after a white police officer fatally shot black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9. City leaders and residents say one way to do that might be to equip police with personal video cameras.

"All the cops have to have body cameras and dashboard cameras," says resident Alonzo Bond, "so everybody can be accountable."

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Eric Garner's funeral will be held in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Wednesday afternoon. The New Yorker died last week shortly after being wrestled to the ground by police.

Some red states like Louisiana and Texas have emerged as leaders in a new movement: to divert offenders from prisons and into drug treatment, work release and other incarceration alternatives.

By most counts, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. In recent years, sentencing reformers in the capital, Baton Rouge, have loosened some mandatory minimum sentences and have made parole slightly easier for offenders to get.

But as reformers in Louisiana push for change, they're also running into stiffening resistance — especially from local prosecutors.

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The Justice Department announced Tuesday it has resolved a two-year-old standoff with the county attorney in Missoula, Mont., in what was originally a dispute over accusations that local prosecutors weren't doing enough to prosecute rape cases.

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.

Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett's execution was botched on Tuesday, when a relatively new combination of drugs failed to work as expected. The incident, the second of its kind in recent months, is renewing questions of what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment."

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Washington has become the first state to lose its waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act. Most states have waivers to some of the more stringent requirements of the 2001 federal law but those waivers come with conditions. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, Washington is being punished because it didn't fulfill a condition that is very dear to the Obama administration.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: What the administration wants is simple. Teachers should be evaluated, in part, on how their students do on standardized tests.

As soon as you drive into town, it's pretty clear that Long Beach, Wash., is all about the razor clam. The first clue is the giant frying pan. It's 14 feet tall and a relic of the clam festivals of the 1940s. And then there's the clam statue that spits when you insert a quarter.

But if you really want to see how much people here love their clams, you'd have to be like Karen Harrell and get up before dawn and drive out onto the blustery beach to go clam digging.

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.

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Now to a new survey from the Pew Research Center that's found more evidence of a shift in public attitudes toward illegal drug use.

As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the survey indicates growing public skepticism about prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: This shift has been going on for a while now. Previous polls already showed a new majority in favor of legalizing marijuana. But in this survey, you also see changing attitudes toward harder drugs.

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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.

Officials in Washington say they've received 108 reports of people missing in the region hit by a recent landslide. But they say that is a "soft number" and rescue efforts continue.

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