David Welna

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

Having previously covered Congress over a 13-year period starting in 2001, Welna reported extensively on matters related to national security. He covered the debates on Capitol Hill over authorizing the use of military force prior to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the expansion of government surveillance practices arising from Congress' approval of the USA Patriot Act. Welna also reported on congressional probes into the use of torture by U.S. officials interrogating terrorism suspects. He also traveled with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Afghanistan on the Pentagon chief's first overseas trip in that post.

In mid-1998, after 15 years of reporting from abroad for NPR, Welna joined NPR's Chicago bureau. During that posting, he reported on a wide range of issues: changes in Midwestern agriculture that threaten the survival of small farms, the personal impact of foreign conflicts and economic crises in the heartland, and efforts to improve public education. His background in Latin America informed his coverage of the saga of Elian Gonzalez both in Miami and Cuba.

Welna first filed stories for NPR as a freelancer in 1982, based in Buenos Aires. From there, and subsequently from Rio de Janeiro, he covered events throughout South America. In 1995, Welna became the chief of NPR's Mexico bureau.

Additionally, he has reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Financial Times, and The Times of London. Welna's photography has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Covering a wide range of stories in Latin America, Welna chronicled the wrenching 1985 trial of Argentina's former military leaders who presided over the disappearance of tens of thousands of suspected dissidents. In Brazil, he visited a town in Sao Paulo state called Americana where former slaveholders from America relocated after the Civil War. Welna covered the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the mass exodus of Cubans who fled the island on rafts in 1994, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the U.S. intervention in Haiti to restore Jean Bertrand Aristide to Haiti's presidency.

Welna was honored with the 2011 Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress, given by the National Press Foundation. In 1995, he was awarded an Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of Haiti. During that same year he was chosen by the Latin American Studies Association to receive their annual award for distinguished coverage of Latin America. Welna was awarded a 1997 Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. In 2002, Welna was elected by his colleagues to a two-year term as a member of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio-Television Correspondents' Galleries.

A native of Minnesota, Welna graduated magna cum laude from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, with a Bachelor of Arts degree and distinction in Latin American Studies. He was subsequently a Thomas J. Watson Foundation fellow. He speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: The nuclear pact with Iran that the U.S. and five other major powers agreed on this week is being denounced by some of Iran's Middle Eastern neighbors. The loudest objections to the deal by far are coming from Israel. Defense Secretary Ash Carter travels there this weekend in what's being seen as a bid to reassure the riled U.S. ally. Carter will also be meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia. NPR's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: After a two-month wait, General Joe Dunford finally got his job interview today. He's President Obama's choice for the nation's top military officer. Dunford would be the administration's third Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As NPR's David Welna reports, the confirmation hearing left little doubt that he'll get the job. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Over the past year, General Joe Dunford has gone from...

Adm. Michael Rogers is among the American officials most likely to know which country perpetrated the Office of Personnel Management's massive data breach, possibly the biggest hack ever of the U.S. government. He's not only director of the National Security Agency, but also heads the U.S. Cyber Command. Still, when asked last week at a spy satellite symposium about the origin of the OPM hack, which was first reported in early June, Rogers demurred. "I'm not gonna get into the specifics of...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: Congress passed a law last week to end the government's mass collection of individuals' phone records. It came after years of public outrage over domestic surveillance, stories of overreach by U.S. intelligence agencies and lawmakers in the dark about what spies are really up to. Forty years ago, many of those same concerns gave rise to the Church Committee. It was the first inquiry by the Senate into...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: It's been two years since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden exposed the spy agency's massive collection of Americans' phone records, and it's been two days since President Obama signed a law ending that practice. Yesterday on this program, Senator Patrick Leahy warned the NSA is also deeply involved in collecting Internet data. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST) PATRICK LEAHY:...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: A tense standoff in Congress over the government's surveillance powers came to a speedy end this afternoon. The Senate approved legislation already passed by the House to reinstate several spying provisions. But the new measure ends the government's ability to collect Americans' phone records in bulk. It's now headed to the White House for President Obama's signature. NPR's David Welna reports. DAVID...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: For the first day in more than a decade, U.S. counterterrorism officials are operating without three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act. That's because the Senate failed to renew them in time. The measures expired at midnight last night. Today, a scramble to revive the lapsed powers continued on Capitol Hill amidst questions about what it means to be left without them. NPR's David Welna reports....

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail account while she was Secretary of State has been widely criticized as suspiciously secretive. Today, nearly 300 of those emails were made public by the State Department. They all deal with the subject of an ongoing congressional investigation - the attacks that took the lives of four Americans nearly three years ago in Benghazi, Libya. NPR's David Welna has...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: And as you head out for this Memorial Day weekend, so are members of Congress. The House is already gone. The Senate is trying to get out, but there's a deadlock over a controversial section of the USA Patriot Act. It is used to collect records of Americans' phone calls, a practice Edward Snowden first revealed two years ago. Without congressional action, that section of the Patriot Act will expire at...

John Sopko, whose job is to watch over U.S. government spending in Afghanistan, says it's not his job to be a cheerleader — it's to speak truth to power. "I am often the bringer of bad news to people. Or at least that's what some people think," he says. Addressing a crowd of Afghanistan analysts and contractors in Washington, Sopko says he has had just one objective since President Obama appointed him three years ago to be the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: "To seek...

A clash between Muslim inmates and the female soldiers assigned to guard them has led to a standoff at the lockup in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A judge has blocked female guards from shackling and escorting five Muslim men being tried for plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. Soldiers, in turn, have filed Equal Opportunity complaints against the judge. Walter Ruiz is the lawyer for one of the Guantanamo detainees who object to being escorted by female guards. During the first six years he represented him...

All presidencies begin with promises. One of the first ones President Obama made was to shut down the stockade holding enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. More than six years later, that promise has yet to be fulfilled. And the Republican-controlled Congress is moving to make it even harder to actually empty Guantanamo. At the prison camp, walking alongside the high outer walls of Guantanamo's detainee lock-ups, Navy spokesman Capt. Tom Gresback gestures to the west. ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: The U.S. has been bombing the self-proclaimed Islamic State since last summer. President Obama says he has all the legal authority he needs to do that. Still, he asked Congress for specific authority to use military force against ISIS. That was more than two months ago. And the response from Congress, which alone has the power to declare war, has amounted to a collective shrug. Well, now two prominent...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVID GREENE, HOST: Nearly two years ago, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, revealed a secret government program. The NSA's so-called bulk collection program gathers the phone records of millions of Americans and stores them for five years. It was authorized in the post-9/11 U.S.A. Patriot Act. That section of the Patriot Act is set to expire June 1, and there's a battle in Congress over...

The U.S. government and cybersecurity companies agree that Iran has greatly improved its cyberattack capability over the past two years. A report being released tomorrow says Iran's cyberattacks have increased during nuclear talks, but some experts question that conclusion. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: WikiLeaks today posted tens of thousands of documents that hackers stole last year from Sony Pictures Entertainment. The U.S....

Congress was out of town, and, to some extent, out of the loop when negotiators in Lausanne, Switzerland agreed April 2 on a "framework" for a deal that U.S. officials say would keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb. As the details for a final deal get worked out before a June 30 deadline, the White House would just as soon see Congress stay on the sidelines. After all, administration officials argue, this is an executive agreement, not a treaty — so it needs no approval by the legislative...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Bowe Bergdahl was charged today by the U.S. military. He's the U.S. Army sergeant who was captured in Afghanistan and held by the Taliban for nearly five years. Here's Army Colonel Daniel King announcing the charges. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) COLONEL DANIEL KING: One count of Article 85, desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty, and one count of Article 99, misbehavior before...

The U.S. air war in Iraq and Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State is now in its eighth month. American officials say dropping bombs won't be enough to defeat that group; it will also require fighting on the ground. So the U.S. is trying to put together a ground force in Syria by training and equipping thousands of Syrians. One big question is what the U.S. will do if these Syrian rebel forces get attacked by the regime of Bashar Assad — and so far, the U.S. doesn't have an answer....

Thad Rasmussen, 36, lost his mother, Rhonda , in the Sept. 11 attacks; she died at the Pentagon. This month, he sat in a courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and looked at five men accused of planning those attacks. "It was very difficult to see them as humans," he says. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp are accused of helping plot the Sept. 11 attacks. For the past three years, they've faced death penalty charges, appearing periodically in the...

This Sunday marks a dozen years since Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan — and seven years since Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann announced formal charges against him, alleging Mohammed was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Ever since, the United States has been working to try him and four other men on death penalty charges at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Now, one of the biggest cases in U.S. history may also become the longest running. And it could be years...

From the tent city it's set up in, to a judge banning defense lawyers from mentioning a former CIA interpreter's having appeared before all of them, the war court in Guantanamo Bay borders on surreal. FBI infiltrations and hidden microphones — and a pile of evidence that remains classified — have hobbled the effort to try five Sept. 11 defendants who face death penalties should guilty verdicts ever be reached. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript KELLY...

For years in the military courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, there's been a subject no one could talk about: torture. Now that's changed. This latest chapter began when the military commission at Guantanamo held a hearing earlier this month in the case of five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks — a case that's been stuck for nearly three years in pre-trial wrangling. It was the first time the court had met since a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: On this program Monday, we told you about a remarkable encounter in the courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It involved the men charged with plotting and carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of the men pointed at a court interpreter and said he had seen him before at a secret CIA prison where the defendant had been brutally interrogated. Today, government prosecutors addressed that claim. NPR's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: The trial of five men accused of planning and facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks resumed today at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the proceedings stopped almost as soon as it began. This was the first session of this war court since last summer, and the first since the release of a Senate report that detailed brutal interrogations in secret prisons against some of these defendants. It was those...

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

The White House is close to nominating someone to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Ashton Carter, the former number two at the Pentagon, is said to be the front-runner. Several other top candidates withdrew their names from consideration in the past week. Carter, a former Rhodes Scholar, is known as a strong manager and an expert on many issues facing the department. Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is far from being closed — something President Obama promised to do in the first days of his administration. But people are being released. Five Taliban prisoners were swapped in May for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Since the November midterm elections, there has been a new batch of transfers from Guantanamo, and more releases are in the works. Seven low-level detainees have been moved from Guantanamo to other nations this month, bringing the number...

It's a question we've all wrestled with: Which emails should be saved and which ones should be deleted? The Central Intelligence Agency thinks it's found the answer, at least as far as its thousands of employees and contractors are concerned: Sooner or later, the spy agency would destroy every email except those in the accounts of its top 22 officials. It's now up to the National Archives — the ultimate repository of all the records preserved by federal agencies — to sign off on the CIA's...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: The U.S. is carrying out two types of military action in Syria. One is airstrikes, and the other is training and arming 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels. RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: And while there's some debate about whether the president had the authority to order the airstrikes without approval from Congress, it turns out the arm and train mission may be on shakier legal grounds. INSKEEP: That effort is...

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