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.

Pages

National Security
3:17 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Congress Weighs In On NSA Overhaul Proposals

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:30 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The National Security Agency faces pressure to reform. Congress is starting to consider what to do about an agency that still operates in great secrecy but has seen many of its operations exposed. In a moment we'll ask how much more we don't know. We start with lawmakers listening to a presidential commission pushing for change after the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Read more
Politics
3:12 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Obama's NSA Panel Testifies Before Senate Committee

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 4:33 pm

Members of a special panel of advisers assembled by President Obama are testifying on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In December, the panel recommended changes to the way that the National Security Administration conducts surveillance.

The Two-Way
7:33 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Lawyers Seek Justice Department Records On Would-Be Bomber

Lawyers for a young Portland man convicted of trying to blow up a Christmas tree ceremony are asking a judge to order the Justice Department to open its files and share "facts and circumstances" of electronic surveillance that prosecutors disclosed only months after his conviction.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:47 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

FBI Director 'Confused' By Reports Calling Snowden A Hero

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

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 4:47 am

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."

Read more
Law
3:26 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Record Could Hinder Confirmation Of Civil Rights Nominee

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 5:12 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.

Read more
Around the Nation
12:57 am
Tue January 7, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 12:23 pm

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.

Read more
Politics
3:46 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Push For Release Of CIA Interrogation Report Continues

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

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 5:31 pm

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.

Read more
National Security
2:43 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Judge Rules Against NSA Bulk Collection Program

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 10:31 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We're going to focus now on the National Security Agency. It's had a bad year, at least publicly. In a moment, we'll take a broader look at the significance of the thousands of documents that Edward Snowden leaked this year on NSA surveillance. Those leaks have raised big questions about whether the agency is violating the Constitution.

Well, yesterday, a federal judge here in Washington, D.C., ruled that the NSA's program to collect the phone records of virtually every American likely crosses that line.

Read more
The Two-Way
12:27 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Federal Judge Rules NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Unconstitutional

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 2:31 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.

Read more
The Two-Way
4:08 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

FBI Agents Support Bipartisan Spending Deal

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

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 5:04 pm

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.

Read more
Law
5:47 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Wash. Judge Rules Towns Failed Poor Defendents

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 9:57 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Read more
The Two-Way
10:03 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Report: Threat Of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas

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

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:44 am

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.

Read more
Politics
4:18 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

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

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 4:50 pm

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.

Read more
National Security
3:13 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Why FISA Court Judges Rule The Way They Do

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 4:02 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.

Read more
Politics
2:29 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

ATF Chief Faces Tough Challenge At Troubled Agency

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Director B. Todd Jones speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Aug. 29.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 4:54 pm

For the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, nothing seems to come easy.

The agency runs at a fraction of the size of its much larger law enforcement counterparts. Under pressure from gun rights groups, it operated without a Senate-confirmed leader for seven years. And its new leader, B. Todd Jones, only narrowly averted a congressional roadblock to win confirmation this summer after serving more than two years as an interim leader.

Read more
All Tech Considered
1:06 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Plastic Guns Made With 3-D Printers Pose New Security Concerns

An all-plastic gun fires a bullet in this screenshot from a video made by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
ATF

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 10:30 am

Read more
Afghanistan
3:11 am
Wed November 13, 2013

What Happens To Guantanamo After The War In Afghanistan Ends?

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:18 am

U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan are set to end after next year. So if the fighting stops, does the war on terror end? What does the end of the war mean for the detention center in Cuba and on drone strikes in Afghanistan?

World
6:45 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Families Of Drone Strike Victims Tell Their Stories

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 3:24 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A family from a village in Pakistan traveled all the way to Capitol Hill this week to tell lawmakers the story of how they lost their grandmother in a deadly attack. She was killed by a U.S. drone strike one year ago. Speaking through an interpreter, her grandchildren's testimony, along with that of her son, marked the first time civilians victimized by drone strikes appeared at a congressional briefing.

Read more
National Security
2:54 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

NGOs Call U.S. Drone Program Illegal In Damning Reports

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 10:28 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released a report documenting the aftermath of drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. A 68-year-old grandmother killed in a farm field in front of her family. Laborers killed after they had gathered in a tent to get out of the summer sun after a long day's work. The human rights groups are calling for more transparency from the Obama administration about America's drone program. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

Read more
Law
1:15 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Getting Federal Benefits To Gay Couples: It's Complicated

A gay rights activist waves a rainbow flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in June, a day before the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 7:54 am

It has been four months since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The ruling paved the way for thousands of same-sex married couples to receive federal benefits, and a special group of government lawyers has been working to make that happen.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:51 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

U.S. Will Disclose Use Of Secret Wiretaps To A Defendant

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 5:29 pm

The Justice Department is wrestling with how to disclose to criminal defendants that some evidence against them may have come from a secret electronic surveillance program.

A senior government official told NPR that prosecutors have identified a criminal case in which they will soon tell defense lawyers that they used secret intercepts to help build the prosecution.

The decision to share the fruits of electronic monitoring under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act has been the source of an internal debate within the department for weeks.

Read more
National Security
2:11 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Has Elite Interrogation Group Lived Up To Expectations?

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 3:58 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Read more
National Security
2:21 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Snowden's Leaks Lead To More Disclosure From Feds

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 9:02 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been exposing the most profound secrets of America's surveillance system, and the Obama administration's response to that? Declassifying lots of other material. The NSA has been under orders to do that from the White House, yet many lawmakers are demanding even more, which raises the question: when do we know enough? NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

Read more
Law
2:20 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Raids In Somalia, Libya Spur Legal Questions

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 4:50 pm

Daring weekend raids by U.S. armed forces to capture suspected terrorists in Somalia and Libya are generating a hearty debate among national security lawyers who are raising questions about what authority U.S. forces have to enter foreign soil and how long the al-Qaida operative who was captured can be held without trial.

The Two-Way
4:14 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Legal Advocates Want Overhaul Of Public Defender System

Former Vice President Walter Mondale speaks at a Georgetown University Law Center discussion last week. He is one of several prominent individuals calling for better legal representation for the poor.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 7:55 am

Prominent members of the legal community are pressuring the Obama administration to do more to ensure that poor criminal defendants have access to a lawyer, a situation that Attorney General Eric Holder has already likened to a national crisis.

Read more
The Two-Way
10:03 pm
Sun September 29, 2013

Justice Department Sues North Carolina Over Voter ID Law

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 3:16 pm

(This post was updated at 5 p.m.)

The Justice Department is suing North Carolina over that state's restrictive new voting law. The lawsuit takes aim at provisions that limit early voting periods and require a government photo ID as an illegal form of discrimination against minorities at the ballot box.

Read more
The Two-Way
10:01 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Justice Department Pushes New Thinking On Kids And Crime

The Justice Department, along with the Department of Education, is trying to stop what experts describe as a "school-to-prison pipeline."
J. David Ake AP

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 8:45 am

For a man who spent the bulk of his career as a public defender, Robert Listenbee's new role walking around the halls of the U.S. Justice Department may not be the most comfortable fit.

But Listenbee, who became administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention earlier this year, says his transition has been smooth. And besides, he says, he couldn't resist the "extraordinary opportunity."

Read more
The Two-Way
12:52 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

FBI Chief: Gunman Was 'Wandering Around Looking For People To Shoot'

FBI Director James Comey is pictured earlier this month during his swearing-in ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 6:11 am

New FBI Director Jim Comey said the man who went on a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday was "wandering around looking for people to shoot" and had no apparent rhyme or reason for killing 12 people.

In his first remarks to reporters since taking office this month, Comey said the gunman, Aaron Alexis, ran out of ammunition for his legally purchased, sawed-off shotgun, exhausting a supply in his cargo pants pocket, and then began using a Beretta wrestled from a guard he had shot.

Read more
Law
3:00 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Push To End Mandatory Minimums Makes Strange Bedfellows

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 6:01 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

On Capitol Hill today, a rare acknowledgement from lawmakers that they are partly to blame for the country's crowded prisons. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, opened a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this way.

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY: We must reevaluate how many people we send to prison and for how long.

SIEGEL: Leahy wants to dial back the long prison sentences that Congress approved during the war on drugs and he's got some surprising allies.

Read more
The Two-Way
9:51 am
Thu September 12, 2013

New FBI Chief Says Budget Cuts Threaten Agency's Mission

Newly minted FBI Director James Comey speaks at a swearing-in ceremony last week at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 11:10 am

In his first full week on the job, new FBI Director Jim Comey is already expressing "intense concern" about budget cuts hitting the bureau as part of sequestration.

Comey used his first visits to FBI field offices in Virginia and New York, where he once served as a federal prosecutor, to sound an alarm about the ability to fulfill the agency's mission in a time of belt tightening.

Read more

Pages