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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5:07am

Tue June 16, 2015
Politics

Senate Considers Anti-Torture Measure

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 7:59 am

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5:31pm

Thu June 4, 2015
National Security

New Snowden Documents Reveal Government Collection Of Online Data

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 8:50 pm

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5:25pm

Tue June 2, 2015
National Security

Senate Advances USA Freedom Act, After Republican Leaders Fail To Amend Bill

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 6:35 pm

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4:32pm

Mon June 1, 2015
National Security

NSA Bulk Collection On Hold As Senate Considers Bill

Originally published on Mon June 1, 2015 10:46 pm

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5:09am

Fri May 22, 2015
Politics

Congressional Stalemate Threatens To Kill Phone Data Program

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 7:32 am

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5:05pm

Thu May 14, 2015
Parallels

The Man Who Keeps Tabs On U.S. Money Spent In Afghanistan

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 2:46 pm

John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, testifies on Capitol Hill last June. Sopko says the Afghans are still having trouble managing the money the U.S. sends to the country. The U.S. has spent $110 billion on Afghanistan's reconstruction since 2002.
Charles Dharapak ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

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4:31pm

Tue May 5, 2015
Politics

Obama To Nominate Gen. Joseph Dunford As Joint Chiefs Chairman

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 7:32 pm

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8:25am

Sat May 2, 2015
National Security

Citing Religious Beliefs, Muslim Gitmo Inmates Object To Female Guards

Originally published on Sun May 3, 2015 8:08 pm

A shackled detainee is transported by guards, including a female soldier, at Camp Delta detention center, Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, in this photo from December 2006.
Brennan Linsley AP

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.

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8:12am

Wed April 29, 2015
Politics

GOP Measure Would Make It Harder For Obama To Empty Guantanamo

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 5:21 pm

The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay detention center at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, in a photograph taken in 2014.
Ben Fox AP

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.

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5:06pm

Thu April 23, 2015
Politics

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

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 7:03 pm

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5:06am

Thu April 23, 2015
Politics

Congressional Battle Brews Over Bill To Extend NSA Data Collection

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 2:15 pm

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4:39pm

Thu April 16, 2015
Technology

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

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 7:40 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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5:02pm

Tue April 7, 2015
It's All Politics

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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5:22pm

Wed March 25, 2015
National Security

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

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 7:43 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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9:50am

Sat March 14, 2015
Middle East

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

Originally published on Sat March 14, 2015 5:20 pm

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

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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