Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson is a Justice Correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the Newscasts and NPR.org.

While in this role, Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Outside of her role at NPR, Johnson regularly moderates or appears on legal panels for the American Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others. She's talked about her work on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and other outlets.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She has been a finalist for the Loeb award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois.

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4:29pm

Fri March 21, 2014
The Two-Way

Prosecutor David O'Neil To Head Justice's Criminal Division

David O'Neil.
Justice Department

Longtime prosecutor David O'Neil will become the acting head of the criminal division at the Justice Department, a position that puts him in charge of a vast portfolio ranging from financial fraud investigations to public corruption and kleptocracy among foreign leaders.

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5:25pm

Thu March 13, 2014
The Two-Way

Senators Want Watchdog To Investigate Federal Prosecutorial Misconduct

A new report from the Project on Government Oversight documents 650 ethics infractions including recklessness and misconduct by Justice Department lawyers over the past decade or so.

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4:47pm

Thu March 13, 2014
News

Holder Steps Forward For Shorter Drug Sentences

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 6:35 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder is before the U.S. Sentencing Commission to support changes in sentencing for drug offenses, which could shave time off prison terms and reduce federal prison populations.

4:06pm

Tue March 11, 2014
News

On Senate Floor, Rift Opens Between Lawmakers And CIA

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 6:51 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel.

In Washington today, a remarkable dispute between the CIA and the lawmakers who oversee its operations. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein accused the agency of thwarting a Senate investigation into the torture of detainees by snooping on her staff's computers.

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3:27am

Tue March 11, 2014
Politics

Holder Speaks Out On Snowden, Drone Policy, Softening Sentences

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 12:13 pm

Already one of the longest-serving attorneys general in history, Eric Holder says he has no immediate plans or timetable to leave. Here, he speaks at the annual Attorneys General Winter Meeting in Washington on Feb. 25.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Virtually any time a major event ripples across Washington, the Justice Department is positioned near the center of it.

From the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner that carried three Americans on board to the fate of voting rights for millions of people, the attorney general has an enormous portfolio. And the stress to match it.

But after an elevated heart rate sent him to the hospital last month, Eric Holder says he's on the mend.

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12:08am

Mon March 10, 2014
The Two-Way

Rights Advocates See 'Access To Justice' Gap In U.S.

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:01 am

Too many poor people in the U.S. lack access to lawyers when they confront major life challenges, including eviction, deportation, custody battles and domestic violence, according to a new report by advocates at Columbia Law School's Human Rights Clinic.

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4:35pm

Wed March 5, 2014
It's All Politics

Senate Democrats Defect On Obama Civil Rights Nominee

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:42 pm

Debo Adegbile, special counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, speaks with the media outside the Supreme Court in Feb. 2013 after presenting arguments in the Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder voting rights case.
Evan Vucci AP

In a stinging blow to the Obama administration, seven Senate Democrats joined with Republicans Wednesday to block one of the president's key civil rights nominees.

The 47 to 52 vote marked the first defeat of a Democratic nominee since lawmakers changed Senate rules to make it easier to push through judges and executive branch candidates. And it came after a clash that pit powerful law enforcement interests against the civil rights community.

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4:14pm

Wed March 5, 2014
News

Decades-Old Case Looms Large In Defeated Civil Rights Nomination

Debo Adegbile was the nominee to lead the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, and he has a compelling story — from child actor to activist lawyer. The Senate defeated his nomination Wednesday.

4:19pm

Tue February 25, 2014
Politics

Before Lawmakers, Former Inmates Tell Their Stories

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 8:01 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Some members of Congress are calling for a more humane prison system. They're proposing a ban on solitary confinement for certain prisoners - among them, juveniles, pregnant women, and the mentally ill. Here's Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today.

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1:56pm

Mon February 24, 2014
Politics

Top Justice Dept. Official Quietly Stepped Down In December

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 3:37 pm

J. David Ake AP

The leader of an influential Justice Department office that offers legal advice on surveillance, drones and other issues at the center of security and executive power quietly left government before Christmas.

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4:18pm

Thu February 20, 2014
Law

New York Backs Off Controversial Punishment For Juveniles

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 8:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The state of New York is taking a step toward a more humane prison system. Prison officials reached a landmark agreement today to limit the use of solitary confinement. The deal prohibits the use of extreme isolation to discipline under-age prisoners. It also offers new protections for pregnant women and for the disabled.

With us to talk about the deal is NPR's Carrie Johnson. Hi.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

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5:39am

Thu February 13, 2014
National Security

In Security Cases, Feds No Longer Get Benefit Of The Doubt

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 7:29 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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10:31am

Tue February 11, 2014
It's All Politics

Holder Calls For Restoring Felons' Voting Rights

Eric Holder, attorney general of the United States, speaks at a Feb. 7 reception for baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron in Washington.
Nick Wass AP

Attorney General Eric Holder called on 11 states to repeal "counterproductive" laws that bar convicted felons from "the single most basic right of American citizenship-the right to vote."

In a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University law school, Holder used his bully pulpit to note that 5.8 million people are prohibited from voting because of current or former felony convictions, including 1-in-5 black adults in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.

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12:18pm

Sat February 8, 2014
The Two-Way

Holder Orders Equal Treatment For Married Same-Sex Couples

Originally published on Sat February 8, 2014 2:04 pm

John Lewis (left) and Stuart Gaffney embrace outside San Francisco's City Hall shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California in June.
Noah Berger AP

Attorney General Eric Holder has for the first time directed Justice Department employees to give same-sex married couples "full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent under the law," a move with far-ranging consequences for how such couples are treated in federal courtrooms and proceedings.

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4:50pm

Fri February 7, 2014
Law

Obama Tries Going It Alone — And Moves Onto Murky Legal Ground

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 9:04 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

President Obama's plan to bypass roadblocks in Congress and govern through executive order isn't going over well on Capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers are demanding to see the legal justification for some of the president's decisions on healthcare and the minimum wage. NPR's Carrie Johnson has that story.

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5:27pm

Thu January 30, 2014
Law

An Unusual Coalition Helps Mandatory Minimum Bill Clear Senate Committee

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:00 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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5:23pm

Thu January 23, 2014
Law

Privacy Board Recommends Eliminating NSA Phone Record Program

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 5:32 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

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12:43am

Thu January 23, 2014
The Two-Way

Post-9/11 Panel Criticizes NSA Phone Data Collection

Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 6:21 am

An independent panel created after the 9/11 attacks says bulk collection of billions of American phone records violates the letter and the spirit of the law.

The new report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board undercuts the foundation of the National Security Agency's long-running phone metadata program, and suggests it conflicts with plain language in the Patriot Act and other laws on the books.

NPR obtained a copy of the report, which will be discussed and voted on Thursday at an open board meeting.

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5:46pm

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics

5 Takeaways From The President's NSA Speech

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 7:21 pm

President Barack Obama talks about National Security Agency surveillance Jan. 17 at the Justice Department in Washington. Seeking to calm a furor over U.S. surveillance, the president called for ending the government's control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing the records.
Carolyn Kaster AP

What does it mean when lawmakers as different as Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall and New York Republican Rep. Peter King offer praise for the president's long-awaited speech on surveillance reforms?

Mostly that resolution to the biggest controversies after leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been put off — or pushed to working groups in the executive branch and the lawmakers themselves.

Still, the president's NSA reforms speech Friday offered a revealing look into the nation's phone data collection program and the direction of the surveillance policy debate.

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3:52pm

Thu January 16, 2014
It's All Politics

Lawmakers Roll Out Voting Rights Act Fix

People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Feb. 2013 to listen to oral arguments in the Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder voting rights case.
Evan Vucci AP

A bipartisan group of lawmakers took the first step Thursday to patch a gaping hole in the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court eviscerated a key part of the law that allowed for federal oversight of states with a history of ballot box discrimination.

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5:10pm

Thu January 9, 2014
The Two-Way

FBI Director 'Confused' By Reports Calling Snowden A Hero

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 6:47 am

FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 14, 2013. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Comey said he's "confused" by reports that characterize NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a "whistleblower" or a "hero."
Carolyn Kaster AP

FBI Director Jim Comey says he's "confused" by reports that characterize NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a "whistleblower" or a "hero" because, he says, all three branches of America's government have approved the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, one of the most important revelations in Snowden's cascade of leaks.

"I see the government operating the way the founders intended," Comey said, "so I have trouble applying the whistleblower label to someone who basically disagrees with the way our government is structured and operates."

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5:28am

Wed January 8, 2014
Law

Record Could Hinder Confirmation Of Civil Rights Nominee

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 7:12 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In other Senate business, the Judiciary Committee today considers President Obama's nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. That nomination could not have come at a more challenging time. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Now, government lawyers are trying to find another way to protect minorities at the ballot box. But NPR's Carrie Johnson reports the president's nominee could get bogged down in something else - battles over his record.

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2:57am

Tue January 7, 2014
Around the Nation

The Secret Burglary That Exposed J. Edgar Hoover's FBI

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 2:23 pm

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is seen in his Washington office, May 20, 1963. The 1971 burglary of one of the bureau's offices revealed the agency's domestic surveillance program.
William J. Smith AP

More than 40 years ago, on the evening of March 8, 1971, a group of burglars carried out an audacious plan. They pried open the door of an FBI office in Pennsylvania and stole files about the bureau's surveillance of anti-war groups and civil rights organizations.

Hundreds of agents tried to identify the culprits, but the crime went unsolved. Until now.

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5:46pm

Wed December 18, 2013
Politics

Push For Release Of CIA Interrogation Report Continues

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 7:31 pm

Mark Udall of Colorado is one of the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee pressing for the so-called torture report to be declassified.
Susan Walsh AP

For more than a year, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA have been engaged in a tug of war over the release of the so-called torture report.

Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, says the $40 million, 6,000-page report demonstrates that CIA treatment of detainees was all but useless in terms of gathering actionable intelligence.

For its part, the CIA says the classified committee report contains significant errors and that no one at the agency was interviewed by Senate investigators.

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2:51pm

Mon December 16, 2013
The Two-Way

Federal Judge Rules NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Unconstitutional

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 4:31 pm

A federal judge in Washington says the National Security Agency's program for bulk phone record collection violates Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy.

The ruling (pdf), however, has been stayed pending a likely appeal.

Judge Richard Leon says the sweeping NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

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6:08pm

Wed December 11, 2013
The Two-Way

FBI Agents Support Bipartisan Spending Deal

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:04 pm

James Comey in the White House Rose Garden as President Obama nominates him for the top FBI post on June 21.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

FBI agents across the country have been among the most vocal opponents of the spending cuts triggered by sequestration, warning about everything from having to abandon surveillance work to a lack of gas money.

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6:53pm

Thu December 5, 2013
NPR Story

Wash. Judge Rules Towns Failed Poor Defendents

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 11:57 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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12:03am

Thu December 5, 2013
The Two-Way

Report: Threat Of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 9:44 am

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to no longer hit low-level drug offenders with charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. But it's not yet clear how broadly that directive is being interpreted.
Stephen Lam Reuters /Landov

A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.

And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.

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6:50pm

Tue December 3, 2013
Politics

Obama Offers Second Chance For Missouri Court Nominee

Ronnie White, then-chief justice-elect of the Missouri Supreme Court, talks with reporters in June 2003.
Kelley McCall AP

President Obama has made it a priority to choose federal judges who are diverse in terms of race or gender. But for the most part, he's avoided controversy for those lifetime appointments.

That's why the nomination of a Missouri lawyer named Ronnie White has raised the eyebrows of experts who've been around Washington for a while. Old hands remember that White was rejected for a federal judgeship back in 1999 after a party line vote by Senate Republicans.

Now, in what experts say could be an unprecedented step, he's getting another chance.

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5:13am

Tue December 3, 2013
National Security

Why FISA Court Judges Rule The Way They Do

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 6:02 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

OK. So federal judges, in secret, have blasted the National Security Agency for years, for violating rules governing U.S. surveillance programs. Then the judges have gone ahead and approved those programs anyway. We know this because of leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and from documents released by the government. They have revealed new information about how the secret court works. NPR's Carrie Johnson has this report on whether it is possible for the court to control the NSA.

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