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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5:20pm

Fri January 17, 2014
Politics

5 Takeaways From The President's NSA Speech

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 6:21 pm

President Barack Obama talks about National Security Agency surveillance Jan. 17 at the Justice Department in Washington. Seeking to calm a furor over U.S. surveillance, the president called for ending the government's control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing the records.
Carolyn Kaster AP

What does it mean when lawmakers as different as Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall and New York Republican Rep. Peter King offer praise for the president's long-awaited speech on surveillance reforms?

Mostly that resolution to the biggest controversies after leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been put off — or pushed to working groups in the executive branch and the lawmakers themselves.

Still, the president's NSA reforms speech Friday offered a revealing look into the nation's phone data collection program and the direction of the surveillance policy debate.

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4:47pm

Thu January 9, 2014
The Two-Way

FBI Director 'Confused' By Reports Calling Snowden A Hero

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 5:47 am

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

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."

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4:28am

Wed January 8, 2014
Law

Record Could Hinder Confirmation Of Civil Rights Nominee

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 6:12 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.

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1:57am

Tue January 7, 2014
Around the Nation

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

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 1:23 pm

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

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.

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5:34pm

Wed December 18, 2013
Politics

Push For Release Of CIA Interrogation Report Continues

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:31 pm

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

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.

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2:05pm

Mon December 16, 2013
The Two-Way

Federal Judge Rules NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Unconstitutional

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 3:31 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.

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4:55pm

Thu December 5, 2013
NPR Story

Wash. Judge Rules Towns Failed Poor Defendents

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 10:57 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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11:03pm

Wed December 4, 2013
The Two-Way

Report: Threat Of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:44 am

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

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.

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5:00pm

Tue December 3, 2013
Politics

Obama Offers Second Chance For Missouri Court Nominee

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 5:50 pm

Ronnie White, then-chief justice-elect of the Missouri Supreme Court, talks with reporters in June 2003.
Kelley McCall AP

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.

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4:13am

Tue December 3, 2013
National Security

Why FISA Court Judges Rule The Way They Do

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 5:02 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.

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4:34pm

Thu November 21, 2013
Politics

ATF Chief Faces Tough Challenge At Troubled Agency

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 5:54 pm

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

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.

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5:10pm

Wed November 20, 2013
The Two-Way

Justice Says FISA Was Used To Help Crack 2010 Oregon Bomb Plot

A 2010 mug shot of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, from the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
AP

The case against a Somali-born U.S. citizen convicted in a foiled bombing plot was built partly on secret information "obtained or derived" from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Justice Department has acknowledged.

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2:06am

Thu November 14, 2013
All Tech Considered

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

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 11:30 am

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

Technology helps police solve crimes every day. But some innovations can also present new public safety concerns — and such is the case with guns built using 3-D printers.

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2:15am

Tue October 22, 2013
Law

Getting Federal Benefits To Gay Couples: It's Complicated

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 8:54 am

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

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.

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4:51pm

Thu October 17, 2013
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 6:29 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.

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