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.

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 are considered too dangerous to release at all. They're known as "unreleasables."

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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The U.S. government and cybersecurity companies agree that Iran has greatly improved its cyberattack capability over the past two years. A report being released tomorrow says Iran's cyberattacks have increased during nuclear talks, but some experts question that conclusion.

Congress was out of town, and, to some extent, out of the loop when negotiators in Lausanne, Switzerland agreed April 2 on a "framework" for a deal that U.S. officials say would keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

As the details for a final deal get worked out before a June 30 deadline, the White House would just as soon see Congress stay on the sidelines. After all, administration officials argue, this is an executive agreement, not a treaty — so it needs no approval by the legislative branch of government.

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Bowe Bergdahl was charged today by the U.S. military. He's the U.S. Army sergeant who was captured in Afghanistan and held by the Taliban for nearly five years. Here's Army Colonel Daniel King announcing the charges.

The U.S. air war in Iraq and Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State is now in its eighth month.

American officials say dropping bombs won't be enough to defeat that group; it will also require fighting on the ground. So the U.S. is trying to put together a ground force in Syria by training and equipping thousands of Syrians.

One big question is what the U.S. will do if these Syrian rebel forces get attacked by the regime of Bashar Assad — and so far, the U.S. doesn't have an answer.

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.

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.

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.

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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