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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Law
2:32 am
Fri September 12, 2014

20 Years Later, Parts Of Major Crime Bill Viewed As Terrible Mistake

Surrounded by lawmakers, President Bill Clinton hugs then-Sen. Joseph Biden after signing the $30 billion crime bill at the White House on Sept. 13, 1994.
Dennis Cook AP

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 12:41 pm

Twenty years ago this week, in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed a crime bill. It was, in effect, a long-term experiment in various ways to fight crime.

The measure paid to put more cops on the beat, trained police and lawyers to investigate domestic violence, imposed tougher prison sentences and provided money for extra prisons.

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Law
3:36 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Holder Says Ferguson Probe Will Look For Source Of Police Mistrust

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department's civil rights division will launch a broad civil rights investigation in the Ferguson, Mo., police department.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 9:09 am

The Justice Department has launched a broad investigation into the actions of police in Ferguson, Mo. A white police officer there shot an unarmed 18-year-old black man last month, touching off protests and episodes of violence.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he's taking a closer look to get to the bottom of deep mistrust of local police.

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The Two-Way
1:34 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

No. 3 Justice Department Official To Depart For The Private Sector

Associate Attorney General Tony West, at podium, speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Aug. 21. West is preparing to announce he is leaving government for a job in the private sector.
Lauren Victoria Burke AP

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 2:36 pm

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

Associate Attorney General Tony West, the third in command at the U.S. Justice Department, is preparing to announce he will leave government for a job in the private sector, two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR.

In a statement, the Justice Department confirmed West's planned departure.

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Law
2:47 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Former Border Protection Insider Alleges Corruption, Distortion In Agency

James Tomsheck poses in his office in Washington in June 2009. At the time, he was assistant commissioner for internal affairs with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 7:53 am

Two months ago, James Tomsheck was pushed out of his job as internal affairs chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

At the time, authorities criticized him for not doing enough to investigate abuse and corruption.

But now Tomsheck tells a very different story: about a culture that goes out of its way to evade legal restraints.

Use of force by law enforcement agents along the Southwest border has drawn attention and criticism recently, after reports that Border Patrol agents shot and killed unarmed migrants and faced no consequences.

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Around the Nation
2:41 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Holder Seeks To Soothe Nerves During Visit To Ferguson

Attorney General Eric Holder participates in a closed-door meeting Wednesday with students at St. Louis Community College, Florissant Valley.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 12:07 pm

The nation's top law enforcement officer traveled to Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday to wrap his arms around a community in pain.

Attorney General Eric Holder hugged community leaders, a highway patrol captain and the mother of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old killed by a police officer earlier this month.

From the moment he walked into a soul food restaurant in Ferguson, the attorney general found friends and began getting reports on the community's mood after days of protests and sporadic violence.

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Law
3:16 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

What Washington Can, And Can't, Do In Ferguson

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 5:18 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's All Politics
4:19 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Attorney General Holder: Ferguson Scenes Cannot Continue

Attorney General Eric Holder at a July 14 press conference. On Thursday, Holder outlined the federal response to recent events in Ferguson, Mo.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 6:59 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder says federal investigators have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson, Mo., even as he pledged new assistance from the Justice Department to quell "extreme displays of force" and militarization by heavily armed local police there.

"It is clear that the scenes playing out in the streets of Ferguson over the last several nights cannot continue," Holder said.

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Law
6:16 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Long Process Begins To Win Non-Violent Drug Offenders Pardons

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 7:09 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Politics
2:49 am
Wed August 6, 2014

After Discrimination Finding, Jury's Out On Memphis Juvenile Courts

Juvenile wing of the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana. In Memphis, the juvenile court system was criticized for inadequate defense of their clients and treating minority children more harshly.
Richard Ross Juvenile In Justice

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 9:55 am

For people connected to the Memphis juvenile courts, April 2012 is unforgettable. That's when federal investigators determined that the Shelby County juvenile court system discriminated against African-American defendants.

The Justice Department said the system punished black children more harshly than whites. In the most incendiary finding, investigators said the court detained black children and sent them to be tried in the adult system twice as often as whites.

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Law
3:18 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

By Putting Interrogations On Tape, FBI Opens Window Into Questioning

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 5:35 pm

Transcript

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia already record questioning of people in police custody. But federal law enforcement had long refused to take that step until this month. Mark Giuliano is the deputy director of the FBI - the highest ranking agent in the bureau.

MARK GIULIANO: So it used to be that we actually had to get permission to record. And now we're at the point where we actually have to get authority not to record.

JOHNSON: The world has changed, and Giuliano says the FBI is starting to change along with it.

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Law
3:19 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Unanimous Vote Could Mean Reduced Penalties For 46,000 Defendants

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 6:54 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now to a major decision that could bring big changes to as many as 46,000 prison inmates. Those are people convicted of drug crimes, and today, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to reduce prison sentences for drug defendants who are already behind bars. This would start next year. NPR justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson, has our story.

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Law
3:19 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

With A Rules Change For A Lever, Senate Ends Judge's 17-Year Wait

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 12:00 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A Missouri lawyer won Senate confirmation today as a federal judge. That came 17 years after he was first nominated to the bench by President Bill Clinton. Ronnie White's nomination in the 1990s triggered a fight between civil rights groups and some police groups. But as NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, a change in Senate rules helped him advance this time.

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Law
3:02 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Justice Dept. Declines To Step Into Dispute Between CIA And Senators

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 6:04 pm

The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a dispute over access to sensitive materials on enhanced interrogations. The power struggle relates to a long-running Senate probe over the mistreatment of detainees after Sept. 11.

The Two-Way
1:59 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

No Criminal Charges In Senate-CIA Spat, Justice Department Says

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein alleged in March that the CIA violated federal law by searching computers used by her staff. On Thursday, the Justice Department declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate panel.
Jim Lo Scalzo EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 2:32 pm

The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee in a dispute over access to documents about the enhanced interrogation program the U.S. deployed against detainees after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Prosecutors notified the Senate panel Thursday of their decision, a muted end to a power struggle that had undermined relations between the intelligence community and its chief overseers on Capitol Hill.

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News
3:13 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

In Oslo, Attorney General Warns Syria May Be A Cradle Of Terrorism

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 5:13 pm

In a speech in Oslo, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged European partners to do more to find and disrupt plans of would-be terrorists who head to Syria — and, once trained, might return to the West.

The Two-Way
1:27 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Case Against Benghazi Suspect Is Complex, Justice Department Says

Ahmed Abu Khattala, an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
AP

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 2:01 pm

The Justice Department says its case against a man accused in the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, is unusually complex and involves "novel questions of fact and law."

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National Security
3:06 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Benghazi Suspect Spends A Day In Court

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 6:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Well, now the latest on the Benghazi case - the man accused in the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya, which killed four Americans, appeared in federal court. At the end of a brief hearing, a judge ordered Ahmed Abu Khattala to remain in federal custody. And prosecutors outlined some new details about the violent events that night in September 2012, and of Khattala's alleged role in them. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson was in the courtroom and she's here with us now to talk about the case. Hi.

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Law
3:17 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Deals A Blow To Unions, But It's Not Quite Mortal

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 6:01 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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The Two-Way
11:03 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Report Questions U.S. Policy On Overseas Drone Strikes

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, in 2010. A new report questions the U.S. policy of using armed drones abroad to carry out attacks on suspected terrorists.
Kirsty Wigglesworth AP

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 2:18 am

U.S. strategy that relies on armed drones to kill terrorism suspects overseas "rests on questionable assumptions and risks increasing instability and escalating costs," according to a year-long study by a group of prominent military, intelligence and foreign policy experts.

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Politics
4:04 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Murdered Voting Advocate's Brother Wants Protections Back

David Goodman and Stosh Cotler of Bend the Arc at the U.S. Capitol.
Carrie Johnson NPR

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 5:51 pm

One year ago, the Supreme Court threw out a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The law gave the federal government a kind of veto power over voting arrangements in states with a history of discrimination. Now, without those protections, civil rights activists say many states are moving polling places and enacting laws that disproportionately hurt minorities.

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National Security
7:13 am
Mon June 9, 2014

FBI Director Comey Looks Ahead To His Next Nine Years

FBI director James Comey wants the agency to get better at preventing crimes and improve diversity. He has another nine years and three months to do that.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 8:33 am

FBI Director Jim Comey brushed back a dark curtain last Thursday morning and emerged to greet his audience, Tonight Show style.

"I feel like a talk show host," Comey told a group of new recruits, the first hired on his watch since he joined the FBI nine months ago.

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Law
4:11 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Prison Rape Law A Decade Old, But Most States Not In Compliance

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says following federal standards for the Prison Rape Elimination Act is too burdensome for states.
Tom Pennington MCT/Landov

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 6:29 pm

The clock is ticking on a decade-long effort to prevent sexual violence inside American prisons. In a recent survey, the vast majority of states said they will try to comply with federal rules. But several others, led by Texas, have protested to the Justice Department.

Jan Lastocy served 15 months in a Michigan prison for attempted embezzlement — her first brush with the law. The assaults began when a new corrections officer showed up at the warehouse where she had been assigned to work as a secretary.

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News
3:16 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

One Year Later, Snowden Still Evades U.S. Charges

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 6:58 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Law
4:31 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Justice Department Renews Focus On Homegrown Terrorists

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 8:42 am

The U.S. has devoted billions of dollars to fighting terrorism overseas in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Justice Department is increasingly warning about the danger posed by radicals on American soil, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants prosecutors and FBI agents to devote more attention to the threat.

Nearly two decades ago, after the Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people, the Justice Department launched a group to fight domestic terrorism.

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The Two-Way
3:47 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

House Vote Aims To Derail DOJ Processing Of Clemency Petitions

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 5:41 pm

The House of Representatives has voted to prohibit the Justice Department from hiring more attorneys to deal with thousands of backlogged clemency petitions in a bid to block one of the Obama administration's top criminal justice priorities.

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The Two-Way
4:17 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

New DOJ Policy Urges Agents To Videotape Interrogations

Department of Justice

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 5:49 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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Law
3:02 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

A Narrow High Court Win For Prayer Before Government Meetings

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 10:52 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
3:56 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 5:25 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
10:07 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
3:09 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Justice Dept. Opens Door To Freedom For Some Nonviolent Offenders

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 10:06 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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