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.

Washington has imposed a number of economic sanctions on Russia in retaliation for that country's push into Ukraine.

Getting European allies to do the same has not always been easy, since many of those nations trade with Russia and fear getting hurt themselves.

But the Europeans are not the only ones balking: The Pentagon also buys Russian military hardware.

The Pentagon issued a study on sexual assaults in the military, reports of which have jumped 50 percent in the past year. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says this is a positive sign that more victims trust the system.

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The U.S. needs more cyberwarriors, and it needs them fast, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He plans to more than triple the size of the Pentagon's Cyber Command over the next two years.

But where will they come from? These are not the kind of skills you can teach in basic training.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was incensed that he only learned about the creation of a Twitter-like network in Cuba through press accounts. He had the chance Tuesday to vent his frustration when USAID administrator Rajiv Shah appeared before Leahy's committee.

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

Transcript

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The Senate intelligence committee voted yesterday in favor of declassifying a huge report that's been kept under wraps for nearly a year and a half. It's the so-called torture report on the interrogation and secret detention program carried out by the CIA following the 9/11 attacks. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Only a 450-page summary of the report and its 20 findings would actually be declassified. New Mexico Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich predicts a big impact.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The House and the Senate both voted overwhelmingly today for aid to Ukraine and sanctions for Russia's annexation of Crimea. The bipartisan response to the crisis follows weeks of partisan wrangling. Differences between the two bills still have to be ironed out. NPR's David Welna is at the Capitol.

When you think of Washington, D.C., what's the first image to pop up?

For many, it's likely the U.S. Capitol — or more specifically, the iconic white dome that crowns the Capitol.

"It is one of the most, if not the most, recognizable symbols across the globe," said Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, whole job entails maintaining the Capitol dome.

As could be said of the Congress that meets below it, the century-and-a-half old dome has seen better days. It is literally cracking up — and Ayers is leading a project to restore it.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Public outrage over NSA surveillance programs that collect data about Americans is forcing some big change. Documents revealing the security agency's methods have been trickling out in the press for months, thanks to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared "I support Senator Feinstein unequivocally" the same day she thrashed the CIA on the Senate floor, the question of whether the pugilistic top congressional Democrat from Nevada would leap into that fight seemed less a matter of if than when.

A little more than a week later, Reid made his move.

The dust is still settling on Capitol Hill after California Democrat Dianne Feinstein fired a verbal bazooka at the Central Intelligence Agency Tuesday morning from the Senate floor.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's chairwoman — normally a stalwart of Washington's spooks — essentially accused the spy agency of illegally and unconstitutionally spying on its congressional overseers.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

The crisis in Ukraine is galvanizing unusually swift bipartisan action on Capitol Hill. The GOP-led House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to authorize a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. We begin this hour on Capitol Hill, where the secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs were grilled today by lawmakers. The Pentagon leaders appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to defend the proposed cuts in military spending. The cuts are outlined in budget President Obama sent to Congress yesterday.

In the three years Republican Rep. David Camp has wielded the gavel of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, overhauling the tax code has been his abiding ambition.

The last revamping of the tax code was 28 years ago, and facing the prospect of having to relinquish that gavel at the end of this year, Camp declared today the time has come to start the debate on a new tax code overhaul.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

I n 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets was a top hit on the music charts, and John Dingell became a member of Congress. Nearly six decades later, the Michigan Democrat, the longest-serving member of Congress is leaving. He announced his retirement yesterday.

Here's NPR's David Welna.

A high-stakes drama played out over the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill this week. It ended with President Obama getting exactly what he'd asked for — an extension of the Treasury's borrowing authority with no strings attached — and an even wider gulf between GOP congressional leaders and Tea Party-aligned conservatives.

Underlying the Republican rift was House Speaker John Boehner's determination to avoid another episode like last fall's government shutdown.

Tuesday saw a rarity in Congress these days: a "clean" bill.

The House passed one to raise the debt limit, a move that avoids a possible default later this month.

In the past, House Republicans have used this debate to extract concessions from President Obama and congressional Democrats.

But not this time. House Republicans demanded nothing in return. The House passed the no-strings-attached debt hike Tuesday evening — though just 28 Republicans voted with the Democratic minority to pass the extension, 221 votes to 201 votes.

House leaders have had weeks to come up with a plan to deal with the nation's debt limit. Now, the day before they want to leave town for a break, it appears they've essentially decided to throw in the towel. They plan to put a bill on the House floor raising the debt ceiling for a year without any conditions attached.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The U.S. Treasury is now in its fourth day of resorting to what it calls extraordinary measures to ensure all the nation's bills get paid. Officials estimate they can keep doing that for only 16 more days without risking a default on the debt. But the House of Representatives has only six working days left to raise the debt ceiling, and this morning, House Republicans were back behind closed doors, gauging support for a plan to do that. NPR's David Welna as at the capital, and he joins us know with the latest.

Good morning.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Today at the stroke of noon in Washington D. C. the U.S. Treasury statutory authority to borrow money will expire.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Here's another way congressional Democrats are using the Budget Office report in support of the Affordable Care Act. They're defending an obscure provision in the law that serves to backstop insurance companies participating in the health plan exchanges. And in a flip of party stereotypes, this has Democrats standing up for the insurance companies and Republicans clashing with big business.

NPR's David Welna explains.

House Republicans headed back to Washington on Friday from a resort along the frozen waters of the Chesapeake Bay. They were there for a three-day retreat aimed at mapping out a legislative strategy for this midterm election year.

One of the most pressing issues they face is the need next month for Congress to raise the nation's debt limit. GOP lawmakers seem leery of another debt ceiling showdown, and their leaders are pushing to act on immigration this year.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Republican-run House of Representatives accomplished a feat of across-the-aisle cooperation today. A minority of House Democrats joined a majority of Republicans to pass a five-year renewal of the Farm Bill. The bill had been mired in partisan disputes for nearly two years. The most divisive issue was the food stamp program. It is by far the Farm Bill's biggest expenditure, and Republicans wanted to shrink it. As NPR's David Welna reports, the bill that passed does include some cuts but they'll be much smaller than many had sought.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Another priority of the president's that's likely to come up tonight is an immigration overhaul. The Senate last year passed a comprehensive bipartisan bill that promise eventual citizenship for millions currently in the country without legal status. While House leaders don't appear ready to go that far, they do seem ready to start a conversation.

Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss won't be seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate this year, and his decision to bow out has eight other Republicans, including three congressmen, scrambling for his seat.

Democrats, meanwhile, have their hopes pinned on the daughter of a well-known and widely admired former senator. It's turned a Senate race Republicans hoped would be a cakewalk into something far less predictable.

For the first time in years, the House of Representatives is expected to approve a massive new spending bill Wednesday that keeps federal agencies operating until a new fiscal year starts in October.

The so-called "omnibus" package of all 12 annual spending bills is a compromise; it has more money in it than what Congressional Republicans wanted, but less than what President Obama had asked for. There is some disappointment with the measure on both sides of the aisle, but this time nobody is talking about forcing another government shutdown.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The House of Representatives bought a little time today. It approved three additional days of funding for the federal government, which would otherwise run out of money tomorrow. It's just the latest sign that, unlike last fall, most lawmakers seem genuinely eager to avoid a government shutdown. House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a huge catchall spending bill, known as the omnibus.

All this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid declared over and over on the Senate floor that there's a downside to the recovering economy.

"It's true," he said. "The rich are getting a lot richer, and the poor are getting poorer."

That observation may not be surprising, coming from a Democrat. Less expected, perhaps, is a similar lament made the same day by the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

Forces allied with al-Qaida are battling to retake two major cities in Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar province: Ramadi, the capital of the province, and Fallujah, the city where U.S. troops prevailed after fighting two major battles.

There have been no American forces in Iraq since 2011, when President Obama ordered the last troops to leave. Now the man who lost the presidential race to Obama five years ago is pointing a finger at the president for al-Qaida's resurgence.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Neither arctic conditions nor cancelled flights kept most of the Senate from returning to Washington after the holidays for last night's vote on the new chair of the Federal Reserve.

GREENE: All but 17 senators showed up, and most voted to confirm Janet Yellen. She will replace Ben Bernanke at the end of the month, the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.

Pages