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.

All over the country, lawyers who defend poor people in criminal cases have been sharing their stories about painful budget cuts. Some federal public defenders have shut their doors to new clients after big layoffs. And in many states, the public defense system has operated in crisis for years.

But an unprecedented recent court filing from the Justice Department has cheered the typically overburdened attorneys who represent the poor and could have dramatic implications for the representation of indigent defendants.

The Department of Justice issued new guidance Thursday on enforcement of marijuana laws. The move comes after two states — Colorado and Washington — legalized marijuana for recreational use. The department said it would not sue to pre-empt those laws as long as the two states follow the new policy, which applies to all 50 states. The government's priorities for prosecutors include keeping drug profits away from gangs and cartels, and keeping marijuana away from children.

The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he's done waiting for answers about how the Justice Department will handle marijuana offenses in states that have legalized small amounts of the drug.

In a case closely watched by the intelligence community and the media, the Justice Department urged a federal appeals court on Monday to leave in place a court ruling that gives reporters little protection from testifying against their sources in criminal prosecutions.

For a man at the center of so many critical government actions, with a portfolio that includes preventing terrorist strikes and cyberattacks, FBI Director Robert Mueller has mostly avoided the limelight since he joined the bureau just a week before Sept. 11, 2001.

As his friend and former CIA Director George Tenet says, Mueller represents a different type.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Army Private Bradley Manning was sentenced this morning to 35 years in a military prison. The intelligence analyst shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the website WikiLeaks in what prosecutors call the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. The 25-year-old Manning stood at attention as his sentence was handed down in a courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Sit down with the attorney general to ask him about his priorities, as NPR did earlier this year, and he'll talk about voting rights and national security. But if you listen a bit longer, Eric Holder gets to this: "I think there are too many people in jail for too long, and for not necessarily good reasons."

This is the nation's top law enforcement officer calling for a sea change in the criminal justice system. And he's not alone.

After a long delay, the Senate has finally confirmed B. Todd Jones to be the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives. Who is he and what took so long?

A military judge has acquitted Army Pvt. Bradley Manning of the most serious charge against him — aiding the enemy — but found him guilty of 19 criminal charges including violation of the Espionage Act and theft of government property. Manning was accused of the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history after he passed thousands of war documents and diplomatic cables to the website WikiLeaks.

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced an aggressive new strategy in response to a Supreme Court ruling last month overturning a key part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Justice Department is starting in Texas, where it is asking a court to force the state to get federal approval before making any election changes - using a different part of the law.

A federal judge considering a constitutional challenge to drone strikes that killed three U.S. citizens in Yemen says she's "troubled" by the idea that the courts have no role to play in what's essentially a political dispute.

Over nearly two hours of arguments in her standing-room-only Washington, D.C. courtroom, Judge Rosemary Collyer repeatedly pressed the Obama administration about its claim to a broad right to use lethal force against Americans engaged in conflict overseas, demanding more than once that government lawyers put a "fence" around their position.

A lawyer for New York Times reporter James Risen is citing new Justice Department guidelines about when to subpoena journalists to support his argument that Risen is covered by a common-law reporter's privilege and need not testify about a former CIA agent who allegedly served as his source.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Attorney General Eric Holder says it is time to take a hard look at so-called Stand Your Ground laws. These are laws that allow people to use deadly force to defend themselves, if they believe they're under attack. Holder delivered that call to action yesterday in a speech to the NAACP in Orlando, Fla., a short distance away from where unarmed, black teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed last year. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to a prominent African-American sorority of the "tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Trayvon Martin" on Monday, saying the Justice Department is still investigating the matter. "We are resolved, as you are, to combat violence involving or directed at young people," he told members of Delta Sigma Theta in Washington, D.C.

James Comey, the president's choice for FBI director, had a relatively easy time fielding questions Tuesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers wanted to know about surveillance, waterboarding and other controversial issues, but they posed their questions gently.

Over 25 years as a federal judge, Royce Lamberth has touched some of the biggest and most contentious issues in the country. He led the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after the Sept. 11 attacks, reviewed petitions from detainees at the Guantanamo prison, and gave a boost to Native Americans suing the federal government.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And the Supreme Court was actually already having a busy week. Yesterday it handed down rulings in two other notable cases, both dealing with worker's rights. The justices split five to four along ideological lines to make it harder for employees to win discrimination lawsuits. The court raised new hurdles for plaintiffs who say they were victims of bias and then faced retaliation for raising the issue. NPR's Carrie Johnson has more.

President Obama will formally nominate Jim Comey to be the country's next FBI director on Friday.

Comey, a registered Republican and longtime federal prosecutor, is best-known for raising alarms inside the Bush White House about a secret electronic surveillance program. That issue has taken on new resonance after disclosures about the Obama administration's dragnet collection of American phone records.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Good Morning.

In one of his final appearances on Capitol Hill, normally media-shy FBI Director Robert Mueller made some news. Mueller, who's retiring in September, acknowledged that the FBI has started to deploy unarmed drones in the U.S. Still, he played down how often agents use those drones.

NPR's Carrie Johnson has more.

NPR has learned that the Obama administration, under pressure to lift a cloak of secrecy, is considering whether to declassify a court order that gives the National Security Agency the power to gather phone call record information on millions of Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the federal government over the National Security Agency's phone and Internet surveillance program.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been a lightning rod for the president's fiercest critics during his four years in office. Lately, he's been back on the hot seat with a crisis of his own making: the Justice Department's aggressive stance toward reporters in national security leak cases.

Holder heads to the Senate on Thursday, where lawmakers are sure to demand an explanation.

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.

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."

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.

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

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.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In a speech today, President Obama laid out a new vision of the global war on terror. He said that more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, the threat from terrorism has changed and U.S. policy must change with it.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As our fight enters a new phase, America's legitimate claim of self defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal or even effective is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.

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.

Pages