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.

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Politics
3:44 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Lawmakers Urge Boehner To Act On Obama's Use Of Force Request

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 5:03 pm

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Politics
3:06 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Congressional Battle Brews Over Bill To Extend NSA Data Collection

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 12:15 pm

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Technology
3:51 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Experts Divided Over Iran's Cyberactivity Since Start Of Nuclear Talks

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 5:40 pm

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.

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Politics
3:26 am
Wed April 15, 2015

Obama, Senate Compromise Gives Congress A Say On Iran Nuclear Deal

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 12:17 pm

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Politics
4:11 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

Senate Panel Backs Bill To Allow Congressional Review Of Iran Deal

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 3:49 am

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted Tuesday in support of a bill that would give Congress a role in approving the Iran nuclear agreement.

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Something unusual took place on Capitol Hill this afternoon.

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Politics
3:11 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

Senators To Review Bill Designed To Limit Iran Nuclear Deal

Originally published on Mon April 13, 2015 5:53 pm

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will review a bill Tuesday that intends to give Congress a voice on the Iran nuclear agreement. The bill would take away the president's power to lift sanctions on Iran for 60 days after an agreement is reached, so Congress would have time to review it.

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National Security
4:09 pm
Sat April 11, 2015

New START Nuke Deal With Russia May Be Aging — But It's Not Over

President Obama speaks beside Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after signing New START documents in 2010. Now five years old, that treaty has taken on renewed relevance in light of the framework nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.
Joe Klamar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 7:04 pm

The tentative deal limiting Iran's nuclear program has gotten a lot of attention since it came together on April 2. It's shaping up to be a major test of the Obama administration's ability to finesse both negotiations abroad and politics on the home front. But this won't be the first time.

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It's All Politics
3:02 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

How Congress Can Stop A Nuclear Deal With Iran

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will shepherd bills on Congress' reaction to the Iran framework deal struck by President Obama.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

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 branch of government.

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Politics
4:25 am
Fri April 3, 2015

Congressional Lawmakers Insist Iran Nuclear Deal Be Put To A Vote

Originally published on Fri April 3, 2015 5:46 pm

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National Security
3:22 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

U.S. Military Charges Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl With Desertion

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 5:43 am

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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.

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Afghanistan
3:04 am
Tue March 24, 2015

U.S. Weighs Its Responsibility When Afghan Forces Commit Abuses

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 8:10 am

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As U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, they're handing off responsibility to Afghan forces. And for Afghan forces, that means taking responsibility for their actions, even when they commit abuses. NPR's David Welna reports.

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Middle East
7:50 am
Sat March 14, 2015

Syrian Rebels Will Face ISIS, But The U.S. May Not Have Their Backs

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish People's Protection Units battle ISIS militants in Kobani, Syria, in November. U.S. officials haven't said whether they will defend the forces if they are attacked by Bashar al-Assad.
Jake Simkin AP

Originally published on Sat March 14, 2015 3:20 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
7:28 pm
Fri March 6, 2015

Report: Recent Guantanamo Releases Less Likely To Reengage In Terrorism

New numbers are out on what U.S. officials consider "terrorist or insurgent activities" by former Guantanamo captives after their release.

At first glance, there appears to be a slight increase in confirmed cases compared to six months ago.

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Politics
3:04 am
Fri March 6, 2015

House Panel Questions Gen. Campbell About Readiness Of Afghan Force

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 8:40 am

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National Security
5:14 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Families Of Sept. 11 Victims Watch Guantanamo Hearings With Mixed Feelings

Relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks are periodically flown down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to witness court proceedings against five men accused of plotting the attacks. For the witnesses of the most recent court session, the experience raised questions about justice, humanity and the ethics of the death penalty.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:42 pm

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.

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National Security
4:27 am
Thu February 26, 2015

'No End In Sight' For Sept. 11 Proceedings At Guantanamo Bay

The legal case of the alleged Sept. 11 terrorists is slowly grinding its way through a war court at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 11:27 am

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 before what's being called the "forever trial" even reaches the trial stage.

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National Security
2:58 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

The Strange World Of Guantanamo Bay's War Court

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 5:14 pm

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.

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National Security
1:58 am
Wed February 25, 2015

'Torture Report' Reshapes Conversation In Guantanamo Courtroom

Defense attorneys for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are now allowed to introduce details regarding their clients' interrogations after the so-called "torture report" was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee late last year.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 5:12 pm

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.

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National Security
2:35 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Gitmo Translator's Past At CIA Throws Wrench In Sept. 11 Trial

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 4:27 pm

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National Security
2:48 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Gitmo Trial For Sept. 11 Suspects Resumes — Then Abruptly Halted

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 4:27 pm

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Politics
2:37 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Secretary Of Defense Nominee Appears Headed For Easy Confirmation

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 5:33 pm

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Afghanistan
4:07 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

U.S. Report On Spending In Afghanistan Classified For First Time

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 8:07 am

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Politics
2:10 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

GOP Says Obama Must Act First On New ISIS Resolution

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 10:14 am

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U.S.
2:46 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Senate Republicans Move To Block Further Transfers From Gitmo

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 4:33 pm

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Politics
2:18 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Feinstein Proposal Would Lock In Anti-Torture Measures

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 1:09 pm

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Politics
2:22 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Ashton Carter Nominated For Secretary Of Defense

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 4:30 pm

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U.S.
2:07 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Hagel: More Reported Sexual Assaults Are Good For The Military

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 4:47 pm

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National Security
3:07 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Ashton Carter Said To Be Front-Runner For Defense Secretary Nomination

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 4:54 pm

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.

Politics
2:04 am
Fri November 28, 2014

Pentagon Expected To Release More Detainees From Guantanamo

A view of the the U.S. Naval Station base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama promised during his first days in office to close the U.S. prison there but it still houses detainees.
Suzette Laboy AP

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 5:16 am

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.

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Politics
2:37 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Hagel's Successor May Face A Tough Nomination Process

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 8:15 am

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

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more on the challenge of getting a new defense secretary confirmed in a Republican-led the Senate, we turn to NPR national security correspondent David Welna.

Hey there, David.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

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