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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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

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

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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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7:00pm

Thu February 26, 2015
National Security

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

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 9:42 pm

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

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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6:27am

Thu February 26, 2015
National Security

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

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 1:27 pm

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

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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4:58pm

Wed February 25, 2015
National Security

The Strange World Of Guantanamo Bay's War Court

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:14 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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3:58am

Wed February 25, 2015
National Security

'Torture Report' Reshapes Conversation In Guantanamo Courtroom

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:12 pm

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

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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4:35pm

Wed February 11, 2015
National Security

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

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 6:27 pm

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

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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4:26pm

Mon February 9, 2015
National Security

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

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 6:27 pm

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

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4:37pm

Wed February 4, 2015
Politics

Secretary Of Defense Nominee Appears Headed For Easy Confirmation

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 7:33 pm

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

4:18pm

Mon January 12, 2015
Politics

Feinstein Proposal Would Lock In Anti-Torture Measures

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 3:09 pm

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

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4:18pm

Tue December 2, 2014
National Security

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

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 6:54 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.

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4:04am

Fri November 28, 2014
Politics

Pentagon Expected To Release More Detainees From Guantanamo

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 7:16 am

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

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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2:29pm

Thu November 20, 2014
National Security

The CIA Wants To Delete Old Email; Critics Say 'Not So Fast'

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 6:32 pm

Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan takes questions after addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on March 11. The CIA has proposed deleting the email of almost all employees after they leave the agency. But some critics are saying a larger portion of the email should be preserved.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

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 proposal.

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