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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3:18pm

Tue December 2, 2014
National Security

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

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:54 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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3:04am

Fri November 28, 2014
Politics

Pentagon Expected To Release More Detainees From Guantanamo

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 6:16 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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1:29pm

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 5:32 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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3:42pm

Wed November 12, 2014
World

NATO Warns Of Russian Movements In Eastern Ukraine

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

3:58am

Mon October 6, 2014
Law

Legal Questions Raised About U.S. Military Operation In Syria

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 11:32 am

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:

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6:56am

Sun September 28, 2014
National Security

Some Democrats At Odds Over Obama's Claim To Airstrike Authority

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 2:21 pm

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

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4:45pm

Mon September 22, 2014
National Security

Why Did Congress Kick The Can On Funding Islamic State Mission?

Originally published on Mon September 22, 2014 4:58 pm

President Obama signs H.J. Res 124, which includes appropriations to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels. For now, the effort will be paid for from an account meant to wind down the war in Afghanistan.
Evan Vucci AP

President Obama now has the approval he sought from Congress to train and arm trusted Syrian rebel forces.

What he didn't get from Congress was the money to pay for the mission.

Lawmakers — who've skipped town for the campaign trail — also didn't approve any new money to pay for the broader air campaign against the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

So where will the money come from?

For a while, at least, combat in Iraq and Syria will probably be paid for from a special account meant to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

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4:13pm

Tue September 9, 2014
Around the Nation

McCaskill Criticizes Programs That Supply Military Equipment To Police

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 5:00 pm

Federal programs that give or pay for military-grade equipment for local police departments are coming under new scrutiny from the Senate Homeland Security panel. An oversight hearing on Tuesday was the first Congressional response to last month's turmoil in Ferguson, Mo. It was called for by Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, who has criticized the "militarization" of Ferguson's police force.

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2:31am

Tue September 9, 2014
Governing

Following Ferguson, Senate Weighs Use Of Military-Grade Equipment

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 3:47 pm

Police fire tear gas from an armored personnel carrier on Aug. 18 in Ferguson, Mo. The U.S. Senate is holding a hearing on the use of military-grade equipment by local police departments.
Jeff Roberson AP

Last month, scenes from Ferguson, Mo., showed police in military-style armored vehicles pointing assault rifles at protesters.

Now, the first congressional hearing in response to those events is being held. It's looking specifically at Washington, D.C.'s hand in militarizing local law enforcement, through federal programs that equipped thousands of police and sheriff's departments with gear made for warfare.

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3:35pm

Tue September 2, 2014
Law

Should Local Police Get The Military's Extra Armored Trucks?

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 5:17 pm

Page County, Va., Sheriff John Thomas received an MRAP for his department in May. "Is it overkill? Yeah, it is. I mean, for our use, it's more armor than we need. But it's free," he says.
David Welna NPR

Mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop carriers, known as MRAPs, were built to withstand bomb blasts. They can weigh nearly 20 tons, and many U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are alive today because of them. But many of the vehicles are now considered military surplus, so thanks to a congressionally mandated Pentagon program, they're finding their way to hundreds of police and sheriff's departments.

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3:09pm

Fri August 15, 2014
Law

Drawing On Pentagon Surplus, Police Now Wield Weapons Of War

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 9:28 am

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

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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7:34am

Sat August 2, 2014
It's All Politics

As Congress Breaks, Inaction Remains Most Notable Action

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 10:48 am

Members of the House of Representatives leave after a procedural vote on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, as Republicans reshaped legislation to deal with the border crisis, a day after Congress was supposed to go into its August recess.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Congress begins a five-week summer recess Saturday after a somewhat tumultuous exit.

The Republican-led House stuck around an extra day trying to overcome conservative opposition to an emergency spending bill dealing with the surge of under-age immigrants from Central America. While that chamber finally eked out a bill last night, it's likely going nowhere. The Senate had already left town after Republicans there blocked a similar funding effort.

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4:03am

Fri August 1, 2014
National Security

Inquiry Shows CIA Spied On Senate Panel That Was Investigating The Agency

Originally published on Fri August 1, 2014 6:14 am

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

3:15pm

Thu July 31, 2014
National Security

CIA Director Apologizes For Meddling In Senate Computers

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 7:07 pm

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

5:33am

Thu July 31, 2014
Politics

With Congress Set To Adjourn, Border Crisis Remains Unresolved

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 7:12 am

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

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