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.

Every year, banks handle tens of millions of transactions. Some of them involve drug money, or deals with companies doing secret business with countries like Iran and Syria, in defiance of trade sanctions.

But if the Justice Department has its way, banks will be forced to change — to spot illegal transactions and blow the whistle before any money changes hands.

Federal prosecutors have already collected more than $4.5 billion from some of the world's biggest financial institutions — banks charged with looking the other way when dirty money passed through their accounts.

Chief Justice John Roberts wants everyone to know the federal judiciary is doing its part to keep down government costs. Roberts used his year-end report on the state of the courts to point out that the judicial branch consumes "a miniscule portion of the federal budget" — about $7 billion in fiscal year 2012, or two-tenths of 1 percent of the total government budget.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has been called the law firm for black America. Once run by Thurgood Marshall, the group played a major role in desegregating public schools and fighting restrictions at the ballot box.

Now, the Legal Defense Fund is preparing for a new leader — just as the Supreme Court considers cases that could pare back on those gains.

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In a closed-door meeting Thursday, lawmakers will consider whether to approve a secret report that chronicles CIA detention and interrogation practices — including methods that critics have compared to torture.

That report — along with the release of a new movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden — is rekindling an old debate about whether those methods worked.

White House spokesman Jay Carney put an end to intense speculation Thursday about whether President Obama would do an end run around Congress with one simple line: "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period."

Some Democrats had been urging Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit — a bold move that would take away Republican leverage in the ongoing negotiations over taxes and spending.

In a tug of war between President Obama and Congress, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., will hear arguments Wednesday on the legality of Obama's controversial recess appointments.

The White House says it was forced to install three new members of the National Labor Relations Board in January because of inaction by Senate Republicans. But those lawmakers argue the Senate wasn't really in a recess at the time.

Back in 1984, Congress gave authorities the power to let people out of federal prison early, in extraordinary circumstances, like if inmates were gravely ill or dying. But a new report says the Federal Bureau of Prisons blocks all but a few inmates from taking advantage of "compassionate release."

The young Army private accused of passing diplomatic cables and war reports to the website WikiLeaks has made an unusual offer: Bradley Manning says he'll plead guilty to minor charges in the case. But he rejects the idea that he ever acted as a spy or helped America's enemies.

The Justice Department has a big decision to make.

Parts of new laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana will take effect early next month. The Obama administration needs to choose whether it will sue to stop the legislation or let those states go their own way — even though the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says the message he got from voters is unambiguous.

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Two sources tell NPR that four more BP employees will be charged in relation to the BP oil spill, which dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The individuals facing manslaughter charges are former BP well managers Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza. Another high ranking official, David Rainey, the former head of Gulf of Mexico exploration, will be charged with downplaying the spill to lawmakers. One more lower ranking BP employee will face insider trading charges.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Oil giant BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the 2010 Gulf Oil spill and will pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties, the company just confirmed. And it will pay $525 million in civil penalties in a resolution with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. BP will make the payments over six years.

The FBI review of sensitive email messages between former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer-mistress Paula Broadwell has been raising big questions about Big Brother.

One of them: When can federal law enforcement review a person's private communications?

To Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, the real scandal over the Petraeus affair is not the extramarital sex, but the invasion of privacy.

In Washington scandals, the question is usually what the White House knew.

But in the case of former CIA Director David Petraeus, lawmakers are asking why President Obama did not know about a federal investigation that had found evidence Petraeus was having an affair.

Republicans have easily maintained their hold on the House, while missteps from Tea Party favorites helped Democrats retain a majority in the Senate.

That means the two chambers of Congress remain deeply divided, with prospects for agreement on such big-ticket items as deficits, tax rates and climate change unclear.

For Republicans itching to regain control of the Senate, Tuesday's election presents a rare opportunity. Only 10 GOP incumbents are on the ballot, compared with nearly two dozen Democrats and independents who caucus with them.

That means the magic number for Republicans is low. They need only a net gain of three or four seats to take over the Senate — and, assuming they keep the U.S. House of Representatives, consolidate their influence on Capitol Hill. Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to seize the House, a goal that political analysts consider all but out of reach.

The number of boys locked up for crimes has dropped over the past decade, but the number of young women detained in jails and residential centers has moved in the other direction.

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A big development today in the Justice Department's crackdown on national security leaks. A former CIA agent pleaded guilty to revealing the name of a covert operative to a reporter. John Kiriakou agreed to spend two and a half years in prison.

NPR's Carrie Johnson was in the courtroom in Virginia for the plea hearing and joins us now to talk about the case. Welcome, Carrie.

Two Republican lawmakers investigating the botched gun trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious say they aren't finished yet.

In a letter obtained by NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., are demanding an update on personnel actions taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives after a lengthy investigation by Congress and the Justice Department inspector general.

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET, Oct. 23:

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, as expected, pleaded guilty this morning to revealing an undercover operative's identity.

According to The Associated Press:

About 300 people have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated in the U.S. thanks to DNA evidence. But overlooked in those stories are the accounts of jurors who unwittingly played a role in the injustice.

One of those stories is playing out in Washington, D.C., where two jurors who helped convict a teenager of murder in 1981 are now persuaded that they were wrong. They're dealing with their sense of responsibility by leading the fight to declare him legally innocent.

Eight years ago, a truck driver parked at a travel center near Detroit made a phone call that changed a life.

"I pulled into a truck stop about midnight," Willis Wolfswinkel remembered. "Getting my log book done. Had two girls knock on my door. And I waved them on 'cause I knew what they were looking for."

Something about those girls bothered Wolfswinkel. They looked young, so he called 911.

When the girls went inside another truck in the same lot, he called again. Wolfswinkel kept watching as the police arrived.

A new report warns thousands of young people held in solitary confinement each year inside adult jails and prisons could suffer lasting consequences including hallucinations and mental illness.

The study by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch reached out to 125 juveniles in 19 states. Many of them reported being isolated for weeks at a time, in small cells with little natural light, no access to education, and minimal opportunities to exercise.

It started as trash talk between two contributors to a national security blog. They decided to host a drone smackdown to see if one guy's machine could take down another.

Unarmed drones, of course. The kind you can put together with a toy-store model and $200 in modifications. But the game turned out to have some serious undertones.

First, a word about the location. For a moment last week, the whole drone smackdown was up in the air.

Plans that would allow John Hinckley to leave a mental institution and go live with his mother are on hold. His doctors say the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan is well enough to deserve more freedom.

But a key part of the treatment plan is now up in the air.

Therapists in Virginia, near the home of John Hinckley's elderly mother, say they want to withdraw from a plan to treat him several days a week.

Hinckley's longtime defense lawyers say they want to quit too, because they're not getting paid any more.

Drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration have killed more than a dozen al-Qaida leaders around the world, in places ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia. In speeches and public appearances, U.S. officials say those attacks are legal and essential to protect the nation's security.

But when civil liberties groups asked for more information about targeted killing, the CIA told them it's a secret.

On Thursday, they'll square off in front of a federal appeals court in Washington.

Pushing For Records

The Justice Department has closed an investigation into the deaths of two detainees in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan without bringing any criminal charges.

Attorney General Eric Holder said prosecutors had declined to proceed "because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt."

A judge has given Ohio unions a preliminary injunction stopping a new state law that could endanger provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct, even if the cause is poll worker error.

John Walker Lindh was a middle-class kid in Northern California who converted to Islam and went to travel the world. U.S. authorities eventually captured him in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, when he was allegedly fighting alongside the Taliban.

His story was the focus of a Law and Order episode, and a song called "John Walker's Blues" by Steve Earle.

For the past five years, Lindh has been living in a secret prison facility in Indiana with convicted terrorists, neo-Nazis and other inmates who get special monitoring.

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