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
7:14 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Families Of Sept. 11 Victims Watch Guantanamo Hearings With Mixed Feelings

Relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks are periodically flown down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to witness court proceedings against five men accused of plotting the attacks. For the witnesses of the most recent court session, the experience raised questions about justice, humanity and the ethics of the death penalty.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 9:42 pm

Thad Rasmussen, 36, lost his mother, Rhonda, in the Sept. 11 attacks; she died at the Pentagon. This month, he sat in a courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and looked at five men accused of planning those attacks.

"It was very difficult to see them as humans," he says.

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National Security
6:27 am
Thu February 26, 2015

'No End In Sight' For Sept. 11 Proceedings At Guantanamo Bay

The legal case of the alleged Sept. 11 terrorists is slowly grinding its way through a war court at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 1:27 pm

This Sunday marks a dozen years since Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan — and seven years since Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann announced formal charges against him, alleging Mohammed was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ever since, the United States has been working to try him and four other men on death penalty charges at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Now, one of the biggest cases in U.S. history may also become the longest running. And it could be years before what's being called the "forever trial" even reaches the trial stage.

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National Security
3:58 am
Wed February 25, 2015

'Torture Report' Reshapes Conversation In Guantanamo Courtroom

Defense attorneys for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are now allowed to introduce details regarding their clients' interrogations after the so-called "torture report" was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee late last year.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:12 pm

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.

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National Security
4:35 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Gitmo Translator's Past At CIA Throws Wrench In Sept. 11 Trial

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 6:27 pm

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National Security
5:16 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Gitmo Trial For Sept. 11 Suspects Resumes — Then Abruptly Halted

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 6:27 pm

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Politics
4:37 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Secretary Of Defense Nominee Appears Headed For Easy Confirmation

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 7:33 pm

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Afghanistan
5:16 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

U.S. Report On Spending In Afghanistan Classified For First Time

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 10:07 am

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U.S.
4:51 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Senate Republicans Move To Block Further Transfers From Gitmo

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 6:33 pm

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Politics
4:18 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Feinstein Proposal Would Lock In Anti-Torture Measures

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 3:09 pm

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National Security
4:18 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 6:54 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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