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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6:21pm

Tue June 4, 2013
The Two-Way

Defense: Too Many Documents 'Classifed' In Rosen Leak Case

The lawyer for Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a former State Department contractor charged with leaking top-secret information to Fox News, has accused the intelligence community of impeding his defense by slapping the "classified" label on hundreds of irrelevant and harmless documents.

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3:35am

Mon June 3, 2013
Law

Intent To Harm At Center Of Bradley Manning's Trial

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 10:23 am

Protesters march during a rally in support of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning outside Fort Meade, Md., on Saturday. Manning, who is scheduled to face a court-martial beginning Monday, is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified records to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.
Patrick Semansky AP

In the three years since his arrest, Bradley Manning, the slight Army private first class with close-cropped blond hair and thick military glasses, has become less of a character than a cause.

"Bradley Manning is a very polarizing figure. People either think that he is a hero or they think he's a traitor," says Elizabeth Goitein, who co-directs the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "I actually think that he's somewhere in between."

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6:08pm

Wed May 29, 2013
The Two-Way

Former Justice Official In Line To Be Named FBI Chief

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 6:25 am

Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on May 15, 2007. NPR has learned that Comey is in line to become President Obama's choice as the next FBI director.
Susan Walsh AP

NPR has learned that former Justice Department official James B. Comey is in line to become President Obama's choice as the next FBI director, according to two sources familiar with the search.

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2:56am

Wed May 29, 2013
It's All Politics

Senators Tussle Over Proposal To 'Unpack' Key D.C. Court

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 10:47 am

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has proposed cutting three seats from a key D.C. appeals court.
Cliff Owen AP

More than 75 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt caused an uproar with his plan to "pack" the Supreme Court with friendly justices. It was an audacious effort to protect his New Deal initiatives.

Now, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has floated the reverse — legislation that would cut three seats from the important D.C. Circuit appeals court, just as President Obama prepares to announce his nominees for those jobs.

The Court-Packing Plan

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12:22pm

Tue May 28, 2013
The Two-Way

Gallup Nears Settlement Deal With DOJ In Overbilling Case

The Gallup Organization has reached "an agreement in principle" with the Justice Department to settle civil allegations that the polling company overbilled the U.S. government by providing inflated estimates for federal contracts, according to a new court filing.

A deal could be announced by mid-June, the court filing says, bringing an end to a costly and embarrassing episode that first came to light when a Gallup insider blew the whistle.

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4:38am

Thu May 23, 2013
Law

Sick Inmates Dying Behind Bars Despite Release Program

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 12:54 pm

Nearly 30 years ago, Congress gave terminally ill inmates and prisoners with extraordinary family circumstances an early way out, known as compassionate release.
iStockphoto.com

Prison is a tough place, but Congress made an exception nearly 30 years ago, giving terminally ill inmates and prisoners with extraordinary family circumstances an early way out. It's called compassionate release.

But a recent investigation found that many federal inmates actually die while their requests drift through the system.

One of them was Clarence Allen Rice.

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7:12pm

Wed May 22, 2013
The Two-Way

Holder Acknowledges U.S. Citizens Killed In Drone Strikes

A Nov. 2010 file image of Anwar al-Awlaki taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group.
Associated Press

For the first time, the U.S. government has acknowledged killing four American citizens in lethal drone strikes far outside traditional battlefields, confirming information that had been widely known but has only recently been unclassified under orders of the president.

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7:11pm

Mon May 20, 2013
The Two-Way

Key Charge Against Ex-BP Official In Spill Case Dismissed

David Rainey, a former BP vice president during the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, leaves federal court after being arraigned on obstruction of a federal investigation in New Orleans on Nov. 28, 2012. A federal judge Monday dismissed the charge that Rainey obstructed a congressional investigation into the 2010 spill.
Matthew Hinton AP

It's another bad day for the Justice Department.

A federal judge in Louisiana has thrown out the central criminal charge against a former BP executive because prosecutors failed to prove he knew about a pending congressional investigation into oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico three years ago. U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt also ruled that a Democratic House member who inquired about the oil flow rate was acting as head of a subcommittee, not a full congressional committee, as required under the federal Obstruction of Justice statute.

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6:23am

Wed May 15, 2013
Politics

Holder Called To Capitol Hill To Testify On Controversies

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Renee Montagne is in Afghanistan this week. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. When we think about the controversies swirling around Washington this week, there's a common denominator. They fall on the shoulders of Attorney General Eric Holder.

INSKEEP: First, news broke that the Justice Department secretly obtained phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. This has ignited a First Amendment uproar.

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3:25am

Tue May 14, 2013
Law

Justice Department Secretly Obtains AP Phone Records

Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 1:19 pm

The screen on the phone console at the reception desk at The Associated Press Washington bureau.
Jon Elswick AP

The Associated Press is protesting what it calls a massive and unprecedented intrusion into its gathering of news. The target of that wrath is the U.S. Justice Department, which secretly collected phone records for several AP reporters last year. The AP says it's caught in the middle of a Justice Department leak investigation.

The scope of the Justice Department subpoenas is what gives David Schultz, a lawyer for AP, pause.

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7:03am

Wed May 8, 2013
The Two-Way

Head Of Environmental Division Is Leaving Justice Dept.

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 11:38 am

Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno in September of 2011.
Jeff Chiu AP

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Ignacia Moreno, the point person at the Justice Department for prosecuting environmental crimes, says she will leave government service next month.

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6:08am

Wed May 8, 2013
Around the Nation

Specially Trained FBI Agents Will Help Kidnapped Women Heal

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 11:43 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When Charles Ramsey talked with a 911 operator about the woman he'd found, the operator had this question.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Can you ask her if she needs an ambulance?

CHARLES RAMSEY: You need an ambulance or what? She needs everything. She's in a panic. I bet she's been kidnapped, so you know, put yourself in her shoes.

INSKEEP: Put yourself in her shoes.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports law enforcement is trying to do just that.

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10:47am

Wed May 1, 2013
The Two-Way

Study: Release Program For Terminal Inmates 'Poorly Managed'

A new watchdog report (PDF) says a Federal Bureau of Prisons program designed to help terminally ill inmates get early release is "poorly managed and implemented inconsistently."

The study by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, which was released Wednesday morning, finds that in 13 percent of cases in which prisoners were approved for the program, inmates died before bureaucrats in Washington made a final decision.

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3:18am

Tue April 30, 2013
It's All Politics

ATF Allies Say Agency Handicapped By Lack Of Director

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 3:27 pm

ATF agents search last week for evidence at the site of the fire and explosion in West, Texas.
Tom Reel/The San Antonio Express-News AP

It's one of the smallest law enforcement agencies in the federal government, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sure had a busy couple of weeks.

Dozens of its agents raced to Boston, where they analyzed bombs left near the finish line of the marathon. Others went south to Texas, where a fertilizer plant exploded under mysterious circumstances. Members of the ATF's national response team are still on the scene in tiny West, Texas, sifting through rubble at the blast site, near a crater that's 93 feet wide.

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3:50pm

Tue April 23, 2013
Explosions At Boston Marathon

Boston Search Shines Spotlight On Surveillance Cameras

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 8:04 pm

An investigator inspects the area near a surveillance camera on the roof of the Lord & Taylor store near the Boston Marathon finish line on Thursday. That camera provided the first glimpse of the men who allegedly planted the bombs.
Julio Cortez AP

Footage from surveillance cameras along the Boston Marathon route gave the FBI early clues about the bombing suspects. And prosecutors say they'll use some of those images to try to prove their criminal case against 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But the proliferation of cameras in America's big cities is raising some tricky questions about the balance between security and privacy.

It was pictures of two brothers taken by a camera outside the Lord & Taylor department store that provided the first glimpse of the men who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon.

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9:44pm

Sun April 14, 2013
It's All Politics

Labor Nominee's Civil Rights Work Draws Praise, Controversy

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 1:28 pm

Tom Perez, President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department, has been an aggressive advocate for civil rights.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department has been one of the most aggressive advocates for civil rights in decades. Tom Perez prosecuted a record number of hate crimes cases and extracted huge settlements from banks that overcharged minorities for home loans.

But some Republican lawmakers say those same qualities give them pause about voting to confirm Perez as a Cabinet member.

'Making A Huge Difference'

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3:22am

Wed April 10, 2013
The Sequester: Cuts And Consequences

Some Public Defenders Warn: 'We Have Nothing Left To Cut'

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 7:20 am

Steven Nolder joined the federal public defender's office when it opened in Columbus, Ohio, nearly 18 years ago. Nolder handled his share of noteworthy cases, including the first federal death penalty trial in the district and the indictment of a former NFL quarterback embroiled in a ticket fraud scheme.

Lately, Nolder says, his professional world has turned upside down.

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3:20am

Thu April 4, 2013
It's All Politics

The Hunt Is On For A New FBI Director

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 5:11 am

FBI Director Robert Mueller is set to leave office this year. Whomever President Obama chooses to replace him could become a big part of Obama's legacy.
Susan Walsh AP

Robert Mueller became FBI director just days before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, he's been the U.S. government's indispensable man when it comes to national security.

But Mueller's term has expired, and the clock is ticking on an unprecedented extension that Congress gave him two years ago.

The first time the Obama White House thought about a replacement for Mueller, back in 2011, officials threw up their hands and wound up begging him to stay. Congress passed a special law to allow it. Then Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa put his foot down.

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3:25am

Tue April 2, 2013
It's All Politics

Judicial Vacancies Languish On Key Federal Appeals Court

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 7:42 am

President Obama last month withdrew the nomination of Caitlin J. Halligan to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., after her nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans.
Jim McKnight AP

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is sometimes called the second most important court in the country, regularly delivering the final word on major environmental, labor and national security cases.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has a whopping four vacancies, the most in the nation, including one opening that dates all the way back to 2005, when John Roberts moved to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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6:47pm

Wed March 27, 2013
The Two-Way

Obama's Labor Nominee Faces GOP Opposition Over His Role In A Supreme Court Case

Originally published on Fri April 12, 2013 12:33 pm

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Thomas Perez, the president's nominee to lead the Department of Labor and a high-profile Latino advocate for civil rights, is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing April 18. But behind-the-scenes wrangling over his nomination, and his controversial role in a Supreme Court case, is already well under way.

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4:56pm

Tue March 26, 2013
Law

California's Proposition 8 Gets Its Day In The Supreme Court

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 5:58 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Inside the courtroom, the debate over California's gay marriage ban was joined with sharp questions and a splash of humor. But where will all lead is still unknown. As NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, expectations for a sweeping and decisive ruling may be overblown.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Chief Justice John Roberts set the tone in the opening moments. Almost immediately, he pressed the lawyer defending California's gay marriage ban on the most basic of points.

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3:25am

Tue March 26, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court

High Court's Decision On Federal Marriage Law Has Tax Implications

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 9:57 am

While equal rights occupy a large part of the debate over same-sex marriage, federal taxes are also a concern for gay couples. Experts say repealing the Defense of Marriage Act will affect some same-sex couples when they file their taxes.
iStockphoto.com

When advocates for gay marriage talk about it, they usually focus on the struggle for equality and civil rights.

But how the Supreme Court decides the Defense of Marriage Act case being argued this week could possibly have big implications in another arena — the money same-sex couples owe the Internal Revenue Service.

The case that could throw out a law that defines marriage as between a man and woman started with a tax bill.

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12:38pm

Mon March 18, 2013
Politics

Justice Department's Tom Perez Tapped For Labor Secretary

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a new labor secretary.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: President Obama has chosen justice department lawyer Thomas Perez for the post. Perez is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. He ran the labor department in his home state of Maryland and he will add a high profile Latino voice to the cabinet. But, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, his nomination is not without controversy.

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12:27pm

Fri March 15, 2013
The Two-Way

Court Says CIA Can't Have It Both Ways On Drones

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 2:56 pm

Don't deny you have documents about drones, court tells the CIA.
Kirsty Wigglesworth AP

A federal appeals court has rejected an effort by the CIA to deny it has any documents about a U.S. drone program that has killed terrorists overseas, ruling that the agency is stretching the law too far and asking judges "to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible."

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5:12am

Fri March 15, 2013
Law

50 Years After Key Case, Problems Defending The Poor Persist

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 6:50 am

Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in which the justices unanimously ruled that defendants facing substantial jail time deserved legal representation in state courts, even if they couldn't afford to pay for it.

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6:18pm

Tue March 12, 2013
The Two-Way

Labor Relations Board Will Take Recess Appointment Decision To Supreme Court

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 6:32 pm

The National Labor Relations Board says it will ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that invalidated three of President Obama's recess appointments, casting a legal cloud over more than 1,000 board actions over the past year.

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5:06pm

Tue March 12, 2013
The Two-Way

Justice's Voting Rights Unit Suffers 'Deep Ideological Polarization' Says Watchdog

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 5:53 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez in 2010 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

The Justice Department's voting rights unit suffers from "deep ideological polarization" and a "disappointing lack of professionalism" including leaks of sensitive case information, harassment and mistreatment among colleagues who have political differences, department watchdogs concluded Tuesday.

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5:39am

Sun March 10, 2013
National Security

When Rand Paul Ended Filibuster, He Left Drones On National Stage

Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 1:21 pm

Code Pink activists deliver flowers, candies and other objects of thanks to Sen. Rand Paul's Capitol Hill offices Thursday for filibustering John Brennan's CIA nomination.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky launched a nationwide conversation last week with his 13-hour filibuster of the president's nominee to lead the CIA.

Paul vowed to keep talking until the White House clarified whether it has authority to kill U.S. citizens on American soil with drones.

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5:26pm

Thu February 28, 2013
It's All Politics

Justice Department Warns Of 'Pain' From Looming Cuts

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 6:30 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks before a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General on Tuesday.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

President Obama minced no words when he talked about how the looming budget cuts known as sequestration could hurt the Justice Department.

"FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go," Obama said.

Starting late Friday, if Congress and the White House can't come to an agreement, the Justice Department will face $1.6 billion in cuts — about 9 percent of its budget. Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of state law enforcement officials who met in Washington this week that the situation looks ugly.

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2:49pm

Mon February 25, 2013
It's All Politics

Would-Be Federal Judges Face The Washington Waiting Game

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 7:23 pm

To understand what's happening with federal judge vacancies, consider this: The Senate voted Monday night to approve the nomination of Robert Bacharach to sit on the federal appeals court based in Denver.

Bacharach had won support from both Republican senators in his home state, and his nomination was approved unanimously. But he still waited more than 260 days for that vote.

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