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
4:09 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Leahy Aims To Patch Loopholes With A Revamp Of NSA's Data Collection

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Health
7:35 am
Tue July 29, 2014

A Compromise Deal On Overhauling The VA, But Will It Pass?

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It's All Politics
8:12 am
Sun July 27, 2014

Time Running Short For Congress To Agree On Border Bill

Immigrants run to jump on a train in Ixtepec, Mexico, during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border. President Obama wants nearly $4 billion in emergency funds to deal with the tens of thousands of children from Central America who've been crossing the border.
Eduardo Verdugo AP

Originally published on Sun July 27, 2014 11:26 am

Congress is set to disband later this week for a summer break stretching past Labor Day. That leaves lawmakers only a few more days to act on an urgent request from President Obama.

The president wants nearly $4 billion in emergency funds to deal with the tens of thousands of children from Central America who've been illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. The GOP-led House may act on just a fraction of that request, setting up a clash with the Democratic-led Senate.

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U.S.
7:39 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Advocates Say Military Dogs Aren't Pets — They're Veterans

Zzarr, a Dutch shepherd, with K-9 handler U.S. Army Sgt. Nathan Arriaga (partly hidden), in 2011.
Romeo Gacad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 3:43 pm

It's dog days on Capitol Hill — or, more precisely, dogs have had their day there.

Five in particular — all war dog veterans. The canines joined their human advocates at a Capitol Hill briefing Wednesday, "Military Dogs Take the Hill," to spotlight an effort to require that all military working dogs be retired to the U.S.

Congress passed a law last year saying the military may bring back its working dogs to the U.S. to be reunited with their handlers, but it does not say they must be brought back.

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National Security
4:45 am
Wed July 23, 2014

The Challenge Of Keeping Tabs On The NSA's Secretive Work

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (center), accompanied by FBI Director Robert Mueller (left) and CIA Director John Brennan, testifies on Capitol Hill on March 12, 2013. When questioned, Clapper said the NSA did not collect data on Americans. He later acknowledged his response was "clearly erroneous."
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 7:51 am

Here's a question with no easy answer: How do you hold the nation's spy agencies accountable — when they control the secrets?

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden apparently thought the answer was to blow the lid off some of the NSA's highly classified programs. He took documents and shared them with journalists.

But what about Congress? It's supposed to oversee the NSA — and other spy agencies. For the committees charged with that task, it hasn't been easy keeping tabs on the secretive world of federal surveillance.

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National Security
5:25 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Before Snowden: The Whistleblowers Who Tried To Lift The Veil

Over the last dozen years, whistleblowers at the National Security Agency have had a rough track record, facing FBI raids and lawsuits.
NSA Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 1:13 pm

Bill Binney worked at the National Security Agency nearly three decades as one of its leading crypto-mathematicians. He then became one of its leading whistleblowers.

Now 70 and on crutches, both legs lost to diabetes, Binney recalls the July morning seven years ago when a dozen gun-wielding FBI agents burst through the front door of his home, at the end of a cul-de-sac a 10-minute drive from NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

"I first knew that they were in there when they were pointing a gun at me as I was coming out of the shower," Binney says.

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National Security
4:34 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Bipartisan Board OKs NSA Surveillance Program, With Suggestions

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 7:20 pm

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Politics
5:45 pm
Sun June 22, 2014

Congress Keeping Close Watch On Obama's Plans In Iraq

President Obama pauses while speaking about the situation in Iraq on Thursday. Obama said the U.S. will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq and set up joint operation centers.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Sun June 22, 2014 6:25 pm

After bowing out of Iraq when the last American forces left two and a half years ago, the U.S. military is back.

Up to 300 military advisers started arriving there this weekend. President Obama said he sent them to help Iraq's military confront the Sunni militants who've overrun much of northern Iraq. He said Thursday that U.S. would not take on another combat role in Iraq, but he didn't rule out all types of military support.

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Iraq
6:11 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

What, Exactly, Are U.S. Interests In Iraq's Turmoil?

Iraqi Shiite tribesmen show their enthusiasm Tuesday for joining Iraqi security forces in the fight against Islamist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities.
Haidar Hamdani AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 8:33 pm

As the U.S. steers warships closer to Iraq and beefs up its embassy's security in Baghdad with nearly 300 troops, a nagging question has resurfaced.

What compelling interests does Washington still have in a nation where all U.S. forces were pulled out 2 1/2 years ago?

Three days after Sunni militants calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, President Obama paused on the White House lawn and issued a warning.

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National Security
5:16 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Defending Bergdahl Deal, Hagel Faces Critics On Both Sides Of Aisle

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:24 pm

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, defending the prisoner swap that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

It's All Politics
6:22 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Feinstein Wants CIA To Speed 'Torture Report' Release

Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks to reporters in April. She tells NPR she's "not particularly" comfortable with the CIA vetting the "Torture Report."
Molly Riley AP

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 7:22 pm

It's been well over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 11 to 3 to declassify and make public the executive summary and findings of its "Torture Report."

But it's not likely that will actually happen anytime soon.

The reason? The CIA — the very agency skewered in the 6,200-page report for its interrogation and detention of more than 100 terrorism suspects from 2001 through 2008 — has been given the job of deciding what to leave in and what to take out of the summary and findings.

And the CIA seems to be in no great rush to finish that job.

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Politics
4:31 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Faced With Pentagon Budget Cuts, Congress Finesses The Numbers

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 8:45 pm

The Pentagon's congressionally-imposed budget cuts ran into a powerful opponent this week: Congress itself. The House Armed Services Committee rejected $5 billion worth of proposed cuts in order to preserve items cherished by individual lawmakers.

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

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Europe
11:31 am
Sat May 3, 2014

Sanctions Put Pentagon's Business Deals With Russia Up For Debate

An Mi-17 helicopter used by the Afghan air force sits on Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan in May 2013. The Pentagon purchases the Russian-made helicopters for the Afghan air force, but recent sanctions may put that deal in jeopardy.
Kristin M. Hall AP

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 9:39 am

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.

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News
5:02 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

In Sex Assault Report, Pentagon Sees Progress — And A Long Way To Go

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 8:32 pm

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/.

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National Security
10:57 am
Wed April 30, 2014

What's The NSA Doing Now? Training More Cyberwarriors

Col. Sam Kinch, of the Delaware Air National Guard, is leader of the Linux team of the NSA's red cell. He's looking at a Web page featuring a photo of Justin Bieber — confirmation that his team has successfully hacked into a U.S. Naval Academy network.
David Welna NPR

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 6:18 pm

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.

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News
4:33 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

An Angry Hearing On The Hill For 'Cockamamie' Twitter-like Network

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 5:24 am

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/.

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News
4:12 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

With $1B In Aid For Ukraine, Congress Puts Money Where Its Mouth Is

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 7:03 pm

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.

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News
4:16 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Out Of White House And Congress, Two Proposals To Change NSA Practices

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 7:28 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
7:44 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

With New Inquiry, Harry Reid Raises Stakes In Senate-CIA Clash

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 11, following a caucus lunch.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 7:47 pm

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.

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National Security
1:22 pm
Sat March 15, 2014

Senate-CIA Clash Goes Behind Closed Doors

Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaks with reporters after alleging that the CIA broke federal law by secretly removing sensitive documents from computers used by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the panel tasked with congressional oversight of the CIA.
Win McNamee Getty Images

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.

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