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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The U.S. Supreme Court in an emergency ruling Thursday evening temporarily blocked a lower court's decision that, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, would have made it easier for residents of three Alabama counties to vote by absentee ballot in July 14 primary runoff elections.

An abnormal stall in an otherwise routine promotion of an Army officer who testified last year in the House hearings on the impeachment of President Trump could result in a highly unusual Senate hold blocking the pending promotions of more than 1,000 other Army officers.

Thanks to their efforts to steer clear of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Navy says two American warships that set sail in mid-January broke the modern record on Thursday for consecutive days at sea for U.S. naval surface vessels.

The official name of the smallest U.S. state is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Some of its residents have been trying for the past three decades to drop the phrase "and Providence Plantations," which they consider an offensive reminder of the state's once-dominant role in the trade of enslaved Africans.

Despite tracking data indicating new coronavirus infections are on the rise in 23 states, the Pentagon on Friday announced it is lifting pandemic-inspired travel restrictions for U.S.

U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, who raised alarms in late March about a serious coronavirus outbreak aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier he commanded, will not be reinstated after being stripped of that command post.

A headlong race to come up with a viable vaccine for COVID-19 that is being championed by a science-averse American president seeking reelection prompted some skeptical questions Thursday on Capitol Hill.

When protests erupted in Minnesota following the death of George Floyd — the black man who died after a white Minneapolis policeman kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes — many of the law enforcement agencies from the Twin Cities metropolitan area that responded were recent beneficiaries of free excess military materiel from a Pentagon program originally meant to support counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations.

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

Ten days after leaving the White House with President Trump and walking with him across a park that had been forcibly cleared of protesters, the nation's most senior military officer is calling that excursion "a mistake."

All of the approximately 1,600 active duty soldiers who were airlifted to military bases near Washington, D.C., earlier this week are being ordered back to their home postings, according the Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

When Russian-speaking troops showed up in Ukraine six years ago, they were dubbed "little green men": armed forces whose green fatigues bore neither insignia nor identification.

A similar genre of unidentified, armed personnel clad in insignia-free uniforms has appeared policing street protests in Washington, D.C., in recent days, and Democratic lawmakers are demanding answers about just who these anonymous enforcers are.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

In a move that possibly placed his job in peril, Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly disagreed Wednesday with President Trump's threatened use of the 1807 Insurrection Act to quell widespread unrest over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.

Democratic leaders in Congress inveighed Tuesday against what they described as a push by President Trump to use the U.S. military for cracking down on nationwide protests triggered by George Floyd's death last week in Minneapolis while he was in police custody.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has reached a somber milestone: As of Wednesday afternoon, the highly infectious viral disease has taken more than 100,000 lives nationwide.

In mid-April, when President Trump declared, "Today I'm instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization," Jimmy Kolker did a double take.

"We were already in arrears before he said anything," says Kolker, who was an assistant secretary for global health affairs during the Obama administration.

Top U.S. Army leaders insisted Thursday that the June 13 graduation ceremony they have announced for West Point cadets — after President Trump declared on April 17 he would be the commencement speaker — will take place in a "safety bubble" of measures aimed at preventing a further spread of the coronavirus.

A new delay emerged Wednesday for an expected decision by U.S. Navy leaders on the possible reinstatement of Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of his command on April 2 of the coronavirus-plagued nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In not even three months since the first known U.S. deaths from COVID-19, more lives have now been lost to the coronavirus pandemic on U.S. soil than the 58,220 Americans who died over nearly two decades in Vietnam.

Early Tuesday evening ET, the U.S. death toll reached 58,365, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In what could amount to a stunning about-face for the Pentagon, congressional sources have confirmed to NPR that top Navy leaders have recommended that Capt. Brett Crozier be put back in command of the coronavirus-plagued aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Top U.S. defense officials are not ruling out restoring Navy Capt. Brett Crozier to his former command of the coronavirus-sidelined aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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