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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Politics
6:03 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

A Year On, What's Changed (And What Hasn't) On Drone Oversight

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 6:04 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The ability to monitor remotely is one hallmark of the post 9/11 world. Another is the ability to kill remotely. It's what the drone has made possible. But now the practice known as targeted killing may become harder to veil in secrecy. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: One year ago in that speech at the National Defense University, President Obama defended his use of drones as legal and effective. But he also acknowledged the practice raises moral questions.

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The Two-Way
5:30 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

New DOJ Policy Urges Agents To Videotape Interrogations

Department of Justice

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 6:49 pm

Senior Justice Department officials have quietly notified U.S. attorneys and federal agents that they're establishing "a presumption" that agents will electronically record statements made by individuals in their custody.

In a memo obtained by NPR, Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole strongly encourages agents to videotape suspects in custody before they appear in front of a judge or magistrate on federal charges. The memo says FBI special agents in charge of field offices or U.S. attorneys can override the policy if they have good cause to set it aside.

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National Security
4:10 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Senate Advances Judicial Nominee Who Wrote Drone Strike Policy

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 9:21 pm

The Senate will consider a judicial nominee who wrote legal advice approving drone strikes against Americans overseas. Critics question executive branch authority to execute citizens without trial.

Law
4:02 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

A Narrow High Court Win For Prayer Before Government Meetings

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 11:52 pm

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the government can use Christian prayers to start town meetings, so long as legislators don't discriminate against non-Christians. It's a new chapter in the long-running fight over prayer in public places and on public occasions. NPR's Carrie Johnson explains what happened in the town of Greece, New York.

The Two-Way
4:56 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

FBI Director: Radicalization Of Westerners In Syria Is Of Great Concern

"There's going to be a diaspora out of Syria at some point, and we are determined not to let lines be drawn from Syria today to a future 9/11," FBI Director James Comey told reporters Friday.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 6:25 pm

FBI Director James Comey says the flow of Western fighters into Syria — and the prospect they'll return home radicalized — represents one of his biggest day-to-day concerns.

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The Two-Way
11:07 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Lawyers Use High Court Petition To Highlight Prosecutorial Misconduct

Lawyers for a computer support technician convicted of possessing ricin to use as a weapon are asking the Supreme Court on Thursday to hear his appeal, as a way to send a message about widespread prosecutorial misconduct.

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Law
4:01 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Justice Dept. Opens Door To Freedom For Some Nonviolent Offenders

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 11:06 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Justice Department wants to grant an early release to thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in crowded federal prisons and they've unveiled a plan to do it. Inmates will receive notice starting next week that they may be eligible to apply. That has government lawyers gearing up for a huge amount of work. Here's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole says there's no time to waste.

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News
4:16 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Longtime D.C. Lawyer Is White House's Next Top Counsel

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 6:38 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

President Obama is getting a new lawyer. Longtime Washington attorney Neil Eggleston will be the next White House counsel. The news comes just in time for midterm elections that could deliver the Senate to Republicans, and launch a new wave of oversight investigations.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports Eggleston will have to muster all of his legal and political skills.

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Law
5:05 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Justice's 'Peacemaker' Unit Focuses On Transgender Rights

Diego Sanchez, the first openly transgender person to work as a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill, helped to develop a new Justice Department program that trains law enforcement to be more sensitive to the needs of transgender people.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 8:20 pm

A groundbreaking survey reports that nearly 2 out of 3 transgender people say they've been victims of physical assault. Most of those crimes are never reported to police. This year, the Justice Department wants to change that by training law enforcement to be more sensitive to the needs of trans people in their communities.

Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole says its new training program is motivated by a simple yet powerful idea.

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Politics
3:24 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Welcome To Voting Rights Boot Camp

Supporters of the Voting Rights Act listen to speakers discussing the Supreme Court's rulings outside the court building in June 2013. The court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, aimed at protecting minority voters, is unconstitutional.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 3:30 pm

Election season is getting underway in states all over the country, and voting rights advocates worry some of those places may move to disenfranchise minorities by exploiting a Supreme Court ruling.

That ruling last June blew up a system that had forced states with a history of discrimination to win federal approval before making election changes.

Now, legal groups are responding by training a new generation of activists to sue. Consider this recent gathering of a few dozen lawyers and community activists on the 28th floor of an Atlanta skyscraper.

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U.S.
4:56 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Unanimous Jury Convicts Al-Qaida Propagandist In Manhattan

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 8:24 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.

Today, in New York City, just blocks from where World Trade towers stood, a jury convicted Osama bin Laden's son-in-law of conspiring to kill Americans. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was a chief propagandist for al-Qaida. He was seen in videos with bin Laden immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Now he faces life in prison when he's sentenced later this year.

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The Two-Way
11:53 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Karl R. Thompson Tapped To Lead Key Justice Department Unit

Karl R. Thompson has been named to lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, an under-the-radar but critically important unit that approves executive branch legal arguments on armed drones, surveillance and other national security issues.

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The Two-Way
4:29 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

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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The Two-Way
5:25 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

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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News
4:47 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

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.

News
4:06 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

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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Politics
3:27 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Holder Speaks Out On Snowden, Drone Policy, Softening Sentences

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

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

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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The Two-Way
12:08 am
Mon March 10, 2014

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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It's All Politics
4:35 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Senate Democrats Defect On Obama Civil Rights Nominee

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

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

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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News
4:14 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

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.

Politics
4:19 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

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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Politics
1:56 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Top Justice Dept. Official Quietly Stepped Down In December

J. David Ake AP

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

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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Law
4:18 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

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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National Security
5:39 am
Thu February 13, 2014

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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It's All Politics
10:31 am
Tue February 11, 2014

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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The Two-Way
12:18 pm
Sat February 8, 2014

Holder Orders Equal Treatment For Married Same-Sex Couples

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

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

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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Law
4:50 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

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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Law
5:27 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

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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Law
5:23 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

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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The Two-Way
12:43 am
Thu January 23, 2014

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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