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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The Two-Way
10:03 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Lanny Breuer, Justice Dept.'s Criminal Division Chief, Says He Will Step Down

Assistant US Attorney General Lanny Breuer in December of 2012.
Ramin Talaie Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the longest serving chief of the Justice Department's criminal division since the 1960s, says he will leave government service in March.

Breuer is announcing his departure a day after a federal judge in New Orleans accepted a guilty plea by BP in connection with the 2010 Gulf Oil spill, the biggest criminal investigation — and at $4 billion, the biggest criminal penalty — in Justice Department history.

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The Two-Way
11:45 am
Tue January 29, 2013

Judge Approves BP's Manslaughter Plea In 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 1:03 pm

A federal judge has approved a guilty plea by BP to manslaughter charges in connection with the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The approved deal includes a record $4 billion in criminal penalties.

Eleven workers on the Deep Water Horizon rig died in the April 2010 explosion. BP pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges for those deaths and to lying to Congress about the amount of the oil spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico.

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It's All Politics
3:12 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

Court Ruling Upsets Conventional Wisdom On Recess Appointments

President Obama "strongly but respectfully disagrees with the ruling" on recess appointments by a federal appeals court, says White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 4:51 pm

In a bombshell decision on the limits of executive power, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., has invalidated President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Legal experts say the court's reasoning upends decades of conventional wisdom and deals a big victory to Senate Republicans in an era of congressional gridlock.

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The Two-Way
9:06 am
Fri January 25, 2013

Obama To Name New Chief Of Staff, New Counterterrorism Adviser

New White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (left), at Friday's announcement. Behind the president: outgoing Chief of Staff Jacob "Jack" Lew, who has been nominated to be Treasury secretary.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 11:05 am

Saying he is choosing "one of my closest friends and one of my closest advisers" for the job, President Obama on Friday said that longtime aide Denis McDonough will be his next chief of staff.

During a midday event at the White House that was remarkable for the expansive comments the president made about his friend's character, his dedication and the respect he gets from those who work in the administration, Obama said McDonough has "the kind of heart that I want in the White House."

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It's All Politics
12:49 am
Fri January 25, 2013

Sponsors Of Assault Weapons Ban Hope Newtown Shooting Changes Minds

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference Thursday announcing her plan to introduce a bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 7:14 am

Congressional Democrats appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday to push for a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The bill's author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, started her remarks with a roster of tragedy: "Columbine. Virginia Tech. Aurora. Tucson. Oak Creek. The common thread in these shootings is each gunman used a semiautomatic assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine."

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It's All Politics
3:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

A Gun Owner From The Left, Sen. Leahy Leads The Debate

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., voted to allow guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains, but rejects suggestions that he'll slow-walk gun control efforts through Congress.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:13 am

President Obama says he's willing to use "whatever power his office holds" to stop gun violence, but the fate of many of his White House proposals will rest in no small part with one man: the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Law
2:45 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Did Prosecutors Go Too Far In Swartz Case?

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 5:54 pm

Criticism is raining down on prosecutors in Massachusetts after the suicide of computer genius Aaron Swartz, who helped to develop innovations like RSS.

Swartz, 26, had been facing trial on 13 felony charges for allegedly breaking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology network and accessing millions of documents. Friends and family argue Swartz was the victim of Justice Department overreach. But legal experts say the case is more complicated than that.

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The Two-Way
7:41 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Lawmaker Plans Bill To Lift Immunity For Gun Manufacturers And Dealers

Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.
Gus Chan The Plain Dealer /Landov

Add this to the list of proposals to overhaul the gun industry: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says he will introduce legislation this week to roll back legal immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers.

Schiff tells NPR there's no need for the 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to remain on the books. That law gave gun makers, gun dealers and trade groups immunity from most negligence and product liability lawsuits. "Good gun companies don't need special protection from the law," Schiff says, "Bad companies don't deserve it."

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It's All Politics
1:23 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Lack Of Up-To-Date Research Complicates Gun Debate

Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, shown in Kansas in 2011, added language to the Justice Department's annual spending bill in 2003 that has put limits on the sharing of government gun records.
John Hanna AP

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 1:27 pm

Vice President Joe Biden is getting ready to make recommendations on how to reduce gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

But he says his task force is facing an unexpected obstacle: slim or outdated research on weapons.

Public health research dried up more than a decade ago after Congress restricted the use of some federal money to pay for those studies.

A Researcher Under Fire

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The Two-Way
12:46 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

The Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drill ship collects oil from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well as workers try to stem the flow of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, June 12, 2010.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 4:10 pm

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig where 11 men died in April 2010, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties to resolve Justice Department allegations over its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

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Law
1:00 am
Tue January 1, 2013

Justice Wants Banks To Be Quasi Cops

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer announces a nearly $2 billion money laundering settlement with British bank HSBC on Dec. 11 in New York City.
Ramin Talaie Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 1, 2013 7:44 am

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.

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It's All Politics
4:22 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

Chief Justice John Roberts On Fiscal Woes: Don't Look At Us

Chief Justice John Roberts speaks in Farmington, Pa., in June.
Ann Wilkins AP

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.

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Law
1:45 am
Tue December 18, 2012

'Black America's Law Firm' Looks To Big Cases With New Leadership

Sherrilyn Ifill will become the new president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in January.
Courtesy of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 12:47 pm

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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Shootings In Newtown, Conn.
5:38 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

Authorities Release Name Of Newtown, Conn. Shooter

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 8:27 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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It's All Politics
1:26 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Report On CIA Interrogation Tactics Revives Torture Debate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have opposing views about a report detailing CIA detention and interrogation practices.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 7:03 am

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.

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It's All Politics
1:59 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

White House Dismisses Constitutional Challenge In Debt Ceiling Saga

White House spokesman Jay Carney briefs reporters Thursday at the White House. "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period," he said.
Charles Dharapak AP

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.

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It's All Politics
12:35 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Is A Recess Appointment Valid If The Senate Says It's Not Really Gone?

The Senate side of the U.S. Capitol.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 7:09 am

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.

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Law
3:04 am
Fri November 30, 2012

Federal 'Compassionate' Prison Release Rarely Given

A new report says federal prison officials rarely grant "compassionate release," even for the most gravely ill inmates.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 5:05 am

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."

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Law
2:48 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Manning Plea Offer Another Odd Piece Of An Odd Case

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after a pretrial hearing in June. Manning is charged with aiding the enemy by giving hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and war logs to the secret-sharing website WikiLeaks.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 4:18 pm

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.

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Law
1:25 am
Tue November 20, 2012

Will U.S. Try To Snuff Out State Marijuana Laws?

A worker inspects a marijuana plant at a grow house in Denver on Nov. 8.
Ed Andrieski AP

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 2:54 pm

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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Law
3:55 am
Mon November 19, 2012

BP Legal Troubles Persist Over Gulf Spill

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 8:38 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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The Two-Way
12:01 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Four More BP Employees Will Be Charged In Oil Spill

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 3:12 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
5:49 am
Thu November 15, 2012

BP Pleads Guilty, Will Pay $4 Billion In Criminal Penalties For Gulf Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 4:32 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
3:32 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Petraeus Scandal Raises Concerns About Email Privacy

David Petraeus, then-CIA director, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in January. Petraeus resigned Friday after acknowledging an extramarital affair.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 8:44 am

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.

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National Security
1:14 am
Tue November 13, 2012

The FBI's Role In The Petraeus Investigation

Members of Congress want to know why they didn't know more about the investigation involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, seen here testifying on Capitol Hill on Feb. 2.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 10:40 am

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.

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It's All Politics
3:54 pm
Tue November 6, 2012

Republicans Keep The House; Democrats To Retain Senate

Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race on Tuesday.
Michael Dwyer AP

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 4:45 am

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.

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It's All Politics
5:01 am
Tue November 6, 2012

The Battle For Congress: Senate And House Races To Watch

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., shakes hands with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren at their Oct. 1 debate in Lowell, Mass. The race is one of a handful of contests that could determine party control of the Senate.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Tue November 6, 2012 5:02 pm

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.

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Around the Nation
3:03 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 5:30 am

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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Law
3:32 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Former CIA Agent Pleads Guilty To Leaking Info

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 2:18 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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.

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The Two-Way
4:01 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Lawmakers Demand Update On 'Fast And Furious' Personnel

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.

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