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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National Security
1:29 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

If The NSA Can't Keep Call Records, Should Phone Companies Do It?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., questioned whether phone companies would retain calling data.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun June 8, 2014 6:34 pm

Perhaps the most controversial spying program revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was the agency's hoarding of Americans' phone records.

Congress wants to change that program.

The House has passed legislation that would end the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' calling data and let phone companies hold the records instead.

As a Senate panel found last week, that proposal could run into trouble.

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Politics
5:10 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Senators Get Background Briefing On Sgt. Bergdahl's Release

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 12:40 pm

With criticism mounting on Capitol Hill of a prisoner swap that traded 5 jailed Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, some military, intelligence and diplomatic officials briefed senators.

Politics
4:33 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

House-Approved USA Freedom Bill Disappoints Original Supporters

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 6:04 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH: We're going to consider now changing perceptions toward fighting terrorism. President Obama has suggested that eventually the war on terror must end and that the nation must think about the tools used to fight it. Here he is speaking a year ago today at the National Defense University.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: From our use of drones to the tension of terror suspects, the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation and world that we leave to our children.

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Politics
5:03 am
Fri May 23, 2014

House Passes Measure Reining In Government Surveillance

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 7:52 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One year ago, President Obama called to reshape the fight against terrorism and for more privacy protections as the government intercepts new types of information. Just days later, the extent of data collection by the NSA would be revealed by Edward Snowden. Yesterday, the House passed legislation reining in government surveillance.

NPR's David Welna reports.

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Politics
5:22 am
Wed May 21, 2014

House To Vote On Fate Of A-10 Warthogs

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 1:26 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Congress ordered big savings in defense spending. Now, Congress is moving to block those savings. What follows is a classic story of how federal budgeting works.

MONTAGNE: The Pentagon faces budget restraints. Lawmakers favor cuts in general, but objected when the cuts became specific. When the Defense Department said it doesn't need some old weapons, lawmakers disagreed.

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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/.

Transcript

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Politics
5:15 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Bipartisan Bill Would Stop NSA's Bulk Phone Data Collection

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 9:54 am

The White House and members of Congress agree that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' phone logs, disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has to end.

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
4:54 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/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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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/.

Transcript

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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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Politics
4:56 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Showing Signs Of Age, Capitol Dome Gets A Face-Lift

The Capitol dome in Washington will undergo renovation this spring, a project that is estimated to take two years and cost nearly $60 million.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 8:24 pm

When you think of Washington, D.C., what's the first image to pop up?

For many, it's likely the U.S. Capitol — or more specifically, the iconic white dome that crowns the Capitol.

"It is one of the most, if not the most, recognizable symbols across the globe," said Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, whole job entails maintaining the Capitol dome.

As could be said of the Congress that meets below it, the century-and-a-half old dome has seen better days. It is literally cracking up — and Ayers is leading a project to restore it.

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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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Politics
5:09 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Aid Package For Ukraine Moves Slowly Through Congress

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 7:44 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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Politics
5:06 am
Fri March 7, 2014

House Backs Obama's Request To Back Loans For Ukraine

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 11:39 am

The crisis in Ukraine is galvanizing unusually swift bipartisan action on Capitol Hill. The GOP-led House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to authorize a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine.

National Security
4:29 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Hagel's On The Hill, Pushing For A Slimmer Military

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:42 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. We begin this hour on Capitol Hill, where the secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs were grilled today by lawmakers. The Pentagon leaders appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to defend the proposed cuts in military spending. The cuts are outlined in budget President Obama sent to Congress yesterday.

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