David Welna | WYPR

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 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.

As a national security correspondent, Welna has continued covering the overseas travel of Pentagon chiefs who've succeeded Hagel. He has also made regular trips to the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to provide ongoing coverage of the detention there of alleged "foreign enemy combatants" and the slow-moving prosecution of some of them in an episodically-convened war court. In Washington, he continues to cover national security-related issues being considered by Congress.

In mid-1998, after 16 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 in 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, Minnesota, 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.

Amid growing concerns about military readiness, a sailor from the coronavirus-sidelined aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt became the first crew member to be hospitalized in intensive care in Guam Thursday. He is one of more than 400 of the ship's sailors who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Updated at 6:55 p.m. ET

Five days after firing the commander of a coronavirus-crippled U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, and a day after apologizing for calling that skipper naive and stupid in heated remarks to that warship's crew, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has called it quits. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has accepted his resignation.

Updated at 9:03 p.m. ET

Three days after firing Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of the coronavirus-sickened nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly boarded the warship docked in Guam and delivered a stinging, profanity-laced denunciation of its deposed skipper.

NPR has obtained an audio recording of Modly's remarks.

A day after U.S. Navy Captain Brett Crozier was abruptly removed from his post as commanding officer of the coronavirus-infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Navy official confirms to NPR that acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly intends for Crozier to be reassigned rather than dismissed from the Navy.

The U.S. Navy captain who wrote an anguished and widely publicized letter this week to his superiors about a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, which he commanded, has now been relieved of that command.

"I lost confidence in his ability," acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said of Capt. Brett Crozier while briefing reporters late Thursday at the Defense Department on the commander's dismissal.

Nearly 3,000 American sailors from the coronavirus-infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt are expected to have disembarked by Friday on the western Pacific U.S island territory of Guam, and plans to quarantine many of them in hotels there are drawing protests from local activists and politicians.

Two days after the top U.S. immunologist warned the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could surpass 100,000, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that it has received a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to round up 100,000 body bags from Department of Defense contractors.

Top U.S. Navy officials on Wednesday defended their response to a coronavirus outbreak aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, a day after a scathing letter from the warship's commander that became public, sharply questioned how the health emergency was being handled.

The U.S. Marine Corps says it is temporarily suspending the shipment of recruits to its 105-year-old depot at Parris Island, S.C., where all newly enlisted Marines east of the Mississippi River are sent for basic training, after several people at the facility tested positive for novel coronavirus.

First it was commercial cruise ships that became floating petri dishes for the coronavirus.

Now the U.S. Navy's nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has been diverted to the U.S. island territory of Guam, the first American warship to have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

When President Jimmy Carter urged Congress in 1980 to revive a lapsed national requirement to register for possible conscription into the military, he said it should apply to everyone, regardless of gender. Congress disagreed, and for the last four decades only males in the U.S. and men overseas who are U.S. citizens have been required, between ages 18 and 25, to register with the Selective Service System.

A former oil supertanker that became the U.S. Navy's lead floating hospital set sail late Monday from its home port in San Diego. The white-hulled USNS Mercy's next stop: the Port of Los Angeles, where it is to help relieve the strain being put on that city's hospitals by the coronavirus pandemic.

Shortly before dawn on Friday at a high-security prison on the outskirts of New Delhi, four men were hanged for the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman who became known as "Nirbhaya," or the fearless one. The widely publicized crime prompted large street demonstrations and a reform of India's laws on sexual assault.

When local health officers issued simultaneous orders on March 16 for all residents of seven counties in the San Francisco Bay area to "shelter at their place of residence," Arnab Mukherjea thought it was "a bit draconian" for him as well as his wife and two young children.

Two days after being sworn in for a second five-year term at a ceremony attended by senior U.S. officials, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reversed his initial refusal to release Taliban prisoners prior to peace talks with the insurgents.

Political chaos reigned in Afghanistan Monday as dueling presidential swearing-in ceremonies took place in Kabul.

Incumbent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took the oath of office for a second term while Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, citing fraud, proclaimed himself Afghanistan's president at a rival inauguration event.

With less than four days to go before peace talks are to begin in Afghanistan between that nation's authorities and the Taliban insurgency, things are not looking promising.

Taliban fighters are stepping up attacks on Afghan security forces. American warplanes are counterattacking. And a prisoner exchange that was to take place before those intra-Afghan talks start is being rejected by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

For nearly a half century, Freedom House — the avowedly non-partisan democracy advocacy organization whose founders include Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Wilkie — has published an annual report on the state of freedom in the world. This year's edition, titled "A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy," is just out, and it is decidedly downbeat in its assessment of where worldwide freedom stands today.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has given the go-ahead to begin a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan, despite reports that the Taliban is ending a partial ceasefire and has resumed attacks on Afghan forces.

Updated at 10:22 a.m. ET

The U.S. and the Taliban have struck a deal that paves the way for eventual peace in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the militant Islamist group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed the potentially historic agreement Saturday in Doha, Qatar, where the two sides spent months hashing out its details.

As fears spread of a wider coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., experts in global health pandemics as well as some of President Trump's leading political adversaries contend that the federal government's response may be lacking a key figure: a coronavirus czar.

The price the U.S. has paid trying to build up infrastructure and a working system of governance in Afghanistan, while at the same time waging Washington's longest war there, has typically been measured in dollars.

The more than $137 billion the U.S. has spent implementing that 18-year nation-building effort in Afghanistan well exceeds, in today's dollars, what the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan to help rebuild 16 Western European nations after World War II.

One day after a contentious interview that was followed by an expletive-filled verbal lashing of NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly accusing her of lying to him — "twice."

In a statement released by the State Department on Saturday, Pompeo says Kelly first lied "in setting up our interview."

Updated at 3:24 p.m. ET

Two astronauts aboard the International Space Station conducted their fourth and final spacewalk Saturday to finish a series of repairs aimed at extending the functioning of a cosmic ray detector attached to the spacecraft.

The six-hour, 16-minute foray outside the space capsule began shortly after 7:00 a.m. ET and ended at 1:20 p.m.

Eight U.S. troops diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) arrived in the U.S. on Friday, according to Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.

It was Day Two of the House managers' opening arguments in another Senate impeachment trial 21 years ago. Bob Barr, a Georgia House Republican,
was speaking in the well of the Senate, making a case for removing President Bill Clinton from office.

"We urge you, the distinguished jurors in this case," Barr said to the assembled senators, "not to be fooled."

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

The blessing of what's being called "the official Bible for the new U.S. Space Force" at the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday is drawing an outpouring of criticism on social media and condemnation from a prominent religious freedom advocacy group.

Kept in the dark beforehand and skeptical of claims the Trump administration made afterward to justify killing Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week in a drone strike, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promising swift action this week to reassert Congress' war powers and rein in President Trump.

A wanted notice was delivered to Lebanese authorities on Thursday by Interpol for Carlos Ghosn, three days after the former head of Nissan jumped bail in Japan and surreptitiously fled to Beirut via Turkey.

In addition, seven people suspected of being accomplices in Ghosn's escape to Lebanon have been detained in Turkey.

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