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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.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: The list keeps getting longer - the list of U.S. government officials whose personal email accounts appear to have been hacked. The latest would-be victim, and perhaps the most surprising to date, is no less than CIA Director John Brennan. The target, it seems, was Brennan's private AOL account. David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent. Welcome back, David. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Thanks Audie...

Obama's plan to leave 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term means he won't fulfill a promise to remove all American forces from that war zone. While he added the disclaimer, "I do not support the idea of endless war," he also said he's not disappointed . "This modest but meaningful extension of our presence, while sticking to our current narrow missions, can make a real difference. It's the right thing to do," he said. The president did not say how much longer American...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Here's a disturbing warning. The kind of cyber-attacks that have recently hit the government and private sector will not only keep happening. They're going to increase. As NPR's David Welna reports, lawmakers heard that warning today, but they didn't hear many solutions. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The heads of the nation's top spy agencies appeared before a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence...

The only American military installation abroad that's unwelcome to its host government is the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A treaty signed in 1934 leases Guantanamo to the United States in perpetuity, for about $4,000 a year. And the U.S. has no plans to leave, despite the two countries having just restored diplomatic ties. Guantanamo Bay — at least officially — is still part of the "Pearl of the Antilles," as the Caribbean's largest island is known. But Cuban officials are...

In hopes that it can persuade Congress to drop its prohibition on transferring detainees in Guantanamo to American soil, the White House is hunting for a highly secure place in the U.S. for some 50 detainees. Labeled as "enemy combatants," they've been held for more than a decade without trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at a camp President Obama has promised to close. Unlike the 52 other captives at Guantanamo whose release can occur as soon as a country is found to take them, these detainees...

When President Obama announced a year ago that he was authorizing new military operations in Iraq, he drew sharp limits on that action. It would only comprise, he said, "targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death." Airstrikes began the next day to rescue the Yazidi people who were trapped on Iraq's Mount Sinjar. That air campaign...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Some other news - Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has made a surprise visit to Iraq. He's in the country where the U.S. military is advising and using air power to support Iraqis fighting ISIS. NPR's David Welna has been traveling with the defense secretary. He's in Baghdad. Hi, David. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Hi, Steve. INSKEEP: What's the secretary doing? WELNA: So the secretary came here primarily to...

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

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: The nuclear pact with Iran that the U.S. and five other major powers agreed on this week is being denounced by some of Iran's Middle Eastern neighbors. The loudest objections to the deal by far are coming from Israel. Defense Secretary Ash Carter travels there this weekend in what's being seen as a bid to reassure the riled U.S. ally. Carter will also be meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia. NPR's...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: After a two-month wait, General Joe Dunford finally got his job interview today. He's President Obama's choice for the nation's top military officer. Dunford would be the administration's third Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As NPR's David Welna reports, the confirmation hearing left little doubt that he'll get the job. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Over the past year, General Joe Dunford has gone from...

Adm. Michael Rogers is among the American officials most likely to know which country perpetrated the Office of Personnel Management's massive data breach, possibly the biggest hack ever of the U.S. government. He's not only director of the National Security Agency, but also heads the U.S. Cyber Command. Still, when asked last week at a spy satellite symposium about the origin of the OPM hack, which was first reported in early June, Rogers demurred. "I'm not gonna get into the specifics of...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: A tense standoff in Congress over the government's surveillance powers came to a speedy end this afternoon. The Senate approved legislation already passed by the House to reinstate several spying provisions. But the new measure ends the government's ability to collect Americans' phone records in bulk. It's now headed to the White House for President Obama's signature. NPR's David Welna reports. DAVID...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: And as you head out for this Memorial Day weekend, so are members of Congress. The House is already gone. The Senate is trying to get out, but there's a deadlock over a controversial section of the USA Patriot Act. It is used to collect records of Americans' phone calls, a practice Edward Snowden first revealed two years ago. Without congressional action, that section of the Patriot Act will expire at...

John Sopko, whose job is to watch over U.S. government spending in Afghanistan, says it's not his job to be a cheerleader — it's to speak truth to power. "I am often the bringer of bad news to people. Or at least that's what some people think," he says. Addressing a crowd of Afghanistan analysts and contractors in Washington, Sopko says he has had just one objective since President Obama appointed him three years ago to be the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: "To seek...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: President Obama has tapped the general who launched the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In announcing his choice today of Marine General Joe Dunford, Mr. Obama is also leaving his mark on the next presidency. NPR's David Welna reports that Dunford's Senate confirmation appears all but certain. DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: General Joe Dunford is no...

A clash between Muslim inmates and the female soldiers assigned to guard them has led to a standoff at the lockup in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A judge has blocked female guards from shackling and escorting five Muslim men being tried for plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. Soldiers, in turn, have filed Equal Opportunity complaints against the judge. Walter Ruiz is the lawyer for one of the Guantanamo detainees who object to being escorted by female guards. During the first six years he represented him...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Edward Snowden's disclosures may achieve their intended effect. It's been two years since the former NSA contractor leaked details of U.S. surveillance programs. Among other things, he revealed the agency collects and stores Americans' phone records. Well, today the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee approved a revision to the Patriot Act - it would end the bulk collection of those records. Here...

All presidencies begin with promises. One of the first ones President Obama made was to shut down the stockade holding enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. More than six years later, that promise has yet to be fulfilled. And the Republican-controlled Congress is moving to make it even harder to actually empty Guantanamo. At the prison camp, walking alongside the high outer walls of Guantanamo's detainee lock-ups, Navy spokesman Capt. Tom Gresback gestures to the west. ...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: The U.S. has been bombing the self-proclaimed Islamic State since last summer. President Obama says he has all the legal authority he needs to do that. Still, he asked Congress for specific authority to use military force against ISIS. That was more than two months ago. And the response from Congress, which alone has the power to declare war, has amounted to a collective shrug. Well, now two prominent...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVID GREENE, HOST: Nearly two years ago, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, revealed a secret government program. The NSA's so-called bulk collection program gathers the phone records of millions of Americans and stores them for five years. It was authorized in the post-9/11 U.S.A. Patriot Act. That section of the Patriot Act is set to expire June 1, and there's a battle in Congress over...

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