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

It's All Politics
10:18 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

ATF Allies Say Agency Handicapped By Lack Of Director

ATF agents search last week for evidence at the site of the fire and explosion in West, Texas.
Tom Reel/The San Antonio Express-News AP

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 10:27 am

It's one of the smallest law enforcement agencies in the federal government, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sure had a busy couple of weeks.

Dozens of its agents raced to Boston, where they analyzed bombs left near the finish line of the marathon. Others went south to Texas, where a fertilizer plant exploded under mysterious circumstances. Members of the ATF's national response team are still on the scene in tiny West, Texas, sifting through rubble at the blast site, near a crater that's 93 feet wide.

Read more
Explosions At Boston Marathon
10:54 am
Tue April 23, 2013

Boston Search Shines Spotlight On Surveillance Cameras

An investigator inspects the area near a surveillance camera on the roof of the Lord & Taylor store near the Boston Marathon finish line on Thursday. That camera provided the first glimpse of the men who allegedly planted the bombs.
Julio Cortez AP

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 3:04 pm

Footage from surveillance cameras along the Boston Marathon route gave the FBI early clues about the bombing suspects. And prosecutors say they'll use some of those images to try to prove their criminal case against 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But the proliferation of cameras in America's big cities is raising some tricky questions about the balance between security and privacy.

It was pictures of two brothers taken by a camera outside the Lord & Taylor department store that provided the first glimpse of the men who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon.

Read more
It's All Politics
4:44 pm
Sun April 14, 2013

Labor Nominee's Civil Rights Work Draws Praise, Controversy

Tom Perez, President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department, has been an aggressive advocate for civil rights.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 8:28 am

President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department has been one of the most aggressive advocates for civil rights in decades. Tom Perez prosecuted a record number of hate crimes cases and extracted huge settlements from banks that overcharged minorities for home loans.

But some Republican lawmakers say those same qualities give them pause about voting to confirm Perez as a Cabinet member.

'Making A Huge Difference'

Read more
The Sequester: Cuts And Consequences
10:22 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

Some Public Defenders Warn: 'We Have Nothing Left To Cut'

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 2:20 am

Steven Nolder joined the federal public defender's office when it opened in Columbus, Ohio, nearly 18 years ago. Nolder handled his share of noteworthy cases, including the first federal death penalty trial in the district and the indictment of a former NFL quarterback embroiled in a ticket fraud scheme.

Lately, Nolder says, his professional world has turned upside down.

Read more
It's All Politics
10:20 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

The Hunt Is On For A New FBI Director

FBI Director Robert Mueller is set to leave office this year. Whomever President Obama chooses to replace him could become a big part of Obama's legacy.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 12:11 am

Robert Mueller became FBI director just days before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, he's been the U.S. government's indispensable man when it comes to national security.

But Mueller's term has expired, and the clock is ticking on an unprecedented extension that Congress gave him two years ago.

The first time the Obama White House thought about a replacement for Mueller, back in 2011, officials threw up their hands and wound up begging him to stay. Congress passed a special law to allow it. Then Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa put his foot down.

Read more
It's All Politics
10:25 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Judicial Vacancies Languish On Key Federal Appeals Court

President Obama last month withdrew the nomination of Caitlin J. Halligan to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., after her nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans.
Jim McKnight AP

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 2:42 am

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is sometimes called the second most important court in the country, regularly delivering the final word on major environmental, labor and national security cases.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has a whopping four vacancies, the most in the nation, including one opening that dates all the way back to 2005, when John Roberts moved to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read more
The Two-Way
1:18 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Obama's Labor Nominee Faces GOP Opposition Over His Role In A Supreme Court Case

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 12, 2013 7:33 am

Thomas Perez, the president's nominee to lead the Department of Labor and a high-profile Latino advocate for civil rights, is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing April 18. But behind-the-scenes wrangling over his nomination, and his controversial role in a Supreme Court case, is already well under way.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
10:25 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

High Court's Decision On Federal Marriage Law Has Tax Implications

While equal rights occupy a large part of the debate over same-sex marriage, federal taxes are also a concern for gay couples. Experts say repealing the Defense of Marriage Act will affect some same-sex couples when they file their taxes.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 4:57 am

When advocates for gay marriage talk about it, they usually focus on the struggle for equality and civil rights.

But how the Supreme Court decides the Defense of Marriage Act case being argued this week could possibly have big implications in another arena — the money same-sex couples owe the Internal Revenue Service.

The case that could throw out a law that defines marriage as between a man and woman started with a tax bill.

Read more
Politics
7:38 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Justice Department's Tom Perez Tapped For Labor Secretary

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a new labor secretary.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: President Obama has chosen justice department lawyer Thomas Perez for the post. Perez is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. He ran the labor department in his home state of Maryland and he will add a high profile Latino voice to the cabinet. But, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, his nomination is not without controversy.

Read more
The Two-Way
7:27 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Court Says CIA Can't Have It Both Ways On Drones

Don't deny you have documents about drones, court tells the CIA.
Kirsty Wigglesworth AP

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 9:56 am

A federal appeals court has rejected an effort by the CIA to deny it has any documents about a U.S. drone program that has killed terrorists overseas, ruling that the agency is stretching the law too far and asking judges "to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible."

Read more
Law
12:12 am
Fri March 15, 2013

50 Years After Key Case, Problems Defending The Poor Persist

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 1:50 am

Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in which the justices unanimously ruled that defendants facing substantial jail time deserved legal representation in state courts, even if they couldn't afford to pay for it.

Read more
The Two-Way
1:32 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Labor Relations Board Will Take Recess Appointment Decision To Supreme Court

The National Labor Relations Board says it will ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that invalidated three of President Obama's recess appointments, casting a legal cloud over more than 1,000 board actions over the past year.

Read more
The Two-Way
12:06 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Justice's Voting Rights Unit Suffers 'Deep Ideological Polarization' Says Watchdog

Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez in 2010 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 12:53 pm

The Justice Department's voting rights unit suffers from "deep ideological polarization" and a "disappointing lack of professionalism" including leaks of sensitive case information, harassment and mistreatment among colleagues who have political differences, department watchdogs concluded Tuesday.

Read more
National Security
11:39 pm
Sat March 9, 2013

When Rand Paul Ended Filibuster, He Left Drones On National Stage

Code Pink activists deliver flowers, candies and other objects of thanks to Sen. Rand Paul's Capitol Hill offices Thursday for filibustering John Brennan's CIA nomination.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 8:21 am

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky launched a nationwide conversation last week with his 13-hour filibuster of the president's nominee to lead the CIA.

Paul vowed to keep talking until the White House clarified whether it has authority to kill U.S. citizens on American soil with drones.

Read more
It's All Politics
12:38 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Justice Department Warns Of 'Pain' From Looming Cuts

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks before a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General on Tuesday.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 1:30 pm

President Obama minced no words when he talked about how the looming budget cuts known as sequestration could hurt the Justice Department.

"FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go," Obama said.

Starting late Friday, if Congress and the White House can't come to an agreement, the Justice Department will face $1.6 billion in cuts — about 9 percent of its budget. Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of state law enforcement officials who met in Washington this week that the situation looks ugly.

Read more
It's All Politics
10:03 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Would-Be Federal Judges Face The Washington Waiting Game

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 2:23 pm

To understand what's happening with federal judge vacancies, consider this: The Senate voted Monday night to approve the nomination of Robert Bacharach to sit on the federal appeals court based in Denver.

Bacharach had won support from both Republican senators in his home state, and his nomination was approved unanimously. But he still waited more than 260 days for that vote.

Read more
The Two-Way
10:35 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Justice Department Joins Lawsuit Against Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong finishes the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race on Aspen Mountain on August 25, 2012.
Riccardo S. Savi Getty Images

The Justice Department has joined a civil lawsuit against cyclist Lance Armstrong, his Tailwind Sports team and its longtime manager, alleging their pervasive doping campaign defrauded the U.S. Postal Service out of more than $31 million in sponsorship fees.

The decision ratchets up the legal pressure on Armstrong, who's lost his seven Tour de France titles, enormous advertising and sponsorship deals, and a large part of his reputation.

Read more
It's All Politics
10:22 pm
Sun February 17, 2013

Government Slowly Changes Approach To Whistle-Blowers

In this 1971 file photo, the real-life Frank Serpico (center, with beard) appears at a hearing during an investigation into police corruption in New York City.
Jim Wells AP

Originally published on Mon February 18, 2013 1:42 am

The federal government once considered whistle-blowers a nuisance or worse. But over the past few years, that attitude has slowly started to change. More agencies have been reaching out for tips about fraud and abuse in and outside the government, even if digging through the stacks of complaints can present a challenge.

Think back to those movies in the 1970s — movies filled with heroic figures who risked it all to expose unsafe factories and police corruption, like New York cop Frank Serpico exposing his less-than-clean colleagues.

Read more
Around the Nation
5:05 am
Sat February 16, 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr. Charged With Illegally Spending Campaign Funds

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now to another remarkable fall from grace. Just three months after he resigned from Congress, Jesse Jackson, Jr. is preparing to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge. Prosecutors say the Illinois Democrat used $750,000 in campaign funds to buy a Rolex watch, mink coats, sports memorabilia. His wife Sandy will plead guilty to a tax change for failing to report that money to the IRS.

NPR's Carrie Johnson has the story.

Read more
The Two-Way
7:40 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Sen. Feinstein Says Intelligence Committee Reviews Drone Attacks

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 10:24 am

When President Obama used his State of the Union address to affirm "we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts" to target terrorism suspects overseas, national security experts wondered exactly who on Capitol Hill got the scoop about secretive U.S. drone strikes.

Read more
It's All Politics
12:01 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

After Tough 2012, Gallup Enlists Polling Expert To Investigate

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 12:44 pm

The Gallup Organization, one of the polling industry's oldest brand names, is calling in an outsider to do a comprehensive review after its 2012 election polls consistently favored Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

University of Michigan professor Michael Traugott, a past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, has been working with Gallup since December to test several of its methods. Among them: how many interviews are conducted by cellphones; how it measures likely voters and early voters; and how it assesses the impact of get-out-the-vote efforts.

Read more
Politics
1:33 am
Thu January 31, 2013

Gun Hearing Airs Issues, Disagreements On Solutions

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

This is the time when we begin to find if the emotional power of the Newtown school shooting will translate into political change. People affected by mass shootings are now talking with state and federal lawmakers.

Susan Aaron's daughter escaped the shooting in Newtown after seeing her teacher and friends killed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

Read more
Law
10:03 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Polling Firm Gallup Lands In Legal Hot Water

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 8:17 am

The Gallup Organization made its name with landmark public opinion polls. The company surveyed everything from presidential elections to religious preferences, branding itself as the most trusted name in polling.

But lately, Gallup's name has been tarnished by a whistle-blower lawsuit and a suspension from winning federal contracts.

Gallup's roots stretch back to 1922, when its founder, George Gallup, was a college junior. He got a summer job interviewing people in St. Louis.

Read more
The Two-Way
7:03 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.

Read more
The Two-Way
8:45 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 10:03 am

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.

Read more
It's All Politics
12:10 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 1:51 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.

Read more
The Two-Way
6:06 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 8:05 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."

Read more
It's All Politics
9:49 pm
Thu January 24, 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 4:14 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."

Read more
It's All Politics
12:38 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 2:13 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.

Read more
Law
12:08 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Did Prosecutors Go Too Far In Swartz Case?

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 2:54 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.

Read more

Pages