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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.

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

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. It was the first time the court had met since a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: On this program Monday, we told you about a remarkable encounter in the courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It involved the men charged with plotting and carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of the men pointed at a court interpreter and said he had seen him before at a secret CIA prison where the defendant had been brutally interrogated. Today, government prosecutors addressed that claim. NPR's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: The trial of five men accused of planning and facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks resumed today at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the proceedings stopped almost as soon as it began. This was the first session of this war court since last summer, and the first since the release of a Senate report that detailed brutal interrogations in secret prisons against some of these defendants. It was those...

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

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

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. Five Taliban prisoners were swapped in May for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Since the November midterm elections, there has been a new batch of transfers from Guantanamo, and more releases are in the works. Seven low-level detainees have been moved from Guantanamo to other nations this month, bringing the number...

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...

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

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: And while there's some debate about whether the president had the authority to order the airstrikes without approval from Congress, it turns out the arm and train mission may be on shakier legal grounds. INSKEEP: That effort is...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. A world leader called on his nation's lawmakers this past week to debate launching airstrikes against the group known as the Islamic State. That leader was not President Obama. It was British Prime Minister David Cameron. The American president, for his part, skipped getting Congress to sign on before attacking the group also known as ISIS...

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...

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

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. Ferguson is in Sen. Claire McCaskill's home state, and the Democrat is leading the...

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. The Pentagon gave John Thomas, sheriff of Page County, Va., a gigantic MRAP —...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: In Ferguson, Missouri, this week, police have been more than well-armed. They were equipped with military-style weapons. This show of force to control crowds has drawn angry criticism from protesters. But the use of military equipment by police isn't unique to Ferguson. It reflects a broader trend nationwide. Many call it the militarization of law enforcement and a lot of that equipment comes from the...

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. Out on the House floor on Friday,...

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

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

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: Before heading off for a summer recess, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress want to do something about the tens of thousands of young Central Americans seeking refuge along the Southwest border. Votes are set today in the GOP-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate on separate bills addressing the crisis, but that does not mean a resolution is in sight. Here's NPR's David Welna. DAVID...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Reining in the NSA's collection of Americans' phone records - it's been a major issue on Capitol Hill since Edward Snowden revealed the domestic spying program more than a year ago. NPR's David Welna reports on a bipartisan effort in the Senate to do that. The aim is to limit surveillance and force more disclosure. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The House already passed the bill in May, banning bulk collection...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST: As Congress prepares to leave town for summer recess at the end of the week, one item on the to do list appears closer to getting done - fixing the troubled health care system under the Department of Veterans Affairs. A deal was hammered out over the weekend aimed at eliminating long waits faced by thousands of veterans seeking appointments at VA facilities. It would also make it easier to fire...

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. House...

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...

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...

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