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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U.S.
10:01 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

States Fail In Fight Against Sex Trafficking

A placard of a child sits on a table during a conference Oct. 31 on human sex trafficking in Atlanta. The Georgia Department of Education estimates that about 5,000 girls in the state are at risk for trafficking each year.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Thu December 1, 2011 3:10 am

Too many states still inadvertently provide safe havens when it comes to sex trafficking — even when children on the streets bear the consequences. That's the conclusion of a new report released Thursday by the advocacy group Shared Hope International.

The study grades each state on whether it has laws to protect children who are pushed into the sex trade — and to punish the adults who seek out those services. Leaders of the group say there's lots of room for improvement. More than half of the states they examined got grades of D or F.

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The Two-Way
11:13 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Prosecutors Say John Hinckley Is Still A Threat

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 11:15 am

The Justice Department says the man who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981 still poses a threat to public safety.

Prosecutors are fighting an effort by John Hinckley to win more freedom from a mental hospital where he's been confined for decades.

During a hearing in Washington, the prosecutors said the government has been watching Hinckley.

Secret Service agents followed Hinckley last summer, when he said he was going to the movies during visits to his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va.

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Law
10:01 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Hearing May Lead To More Freedom For Hinckley

John Hinckley Jr. is escorted by police in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981, following his arrest after shooting and seriously wounding then-President Ronald Reagan.
AFP/Getty Images

More than 30 years ago, on March 30, 1981, John Hinckley shot President Reagan and three other people outside a Washington hotel. A jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity, and authorities sent him to a mental institution.

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Law
3:32 am
Sun November 27, 2011

Beyond Fighting Crime, FBI Reaches Out To Victims

Students sit at the Virginia Tech campus on April 18, 2007, two days after a student killed 32 people and himself. FBI victim specialists span out to help in the wake of crimes like the Virginia Tech massacre.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Sun November 27, 2011 3:57 pm

When FBI agents arrive at the scene of a shooting or a terrorist attack, there's often someone else standing in the background. It's a representative from the FBI's Office for Victim Assistance, there to help people suffering in the aftermath of a disaster.

The planning for those unfortunate days starts here, in a windowless conference room in the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building, where seven serious-looking people are sitting around a table.

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Law
6:09 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Government Whistle-Blowers Gain New Advocate

Carolyn Lerner is the new head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Peter Krogh Courtesy of U.S. Office of Special Counsel

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is one of those small corners of the government with an important mission: It's supposed to help protect federal whistle-blowers and shield civil service workers from politics.

But during the Bush years, the office was engulfed in scandal. It was raided by FBI agents, and its chief was indicted for obstructing justice.

It's into that unsettled environment that the new leader, Carolyn Lerner, arrived five months ago. And good government groups say she's already taking the office in new directions.

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The Two-Way
10:00 am
Mon November 21, 2011

No Criminal Charges Against Justice Dept. Lawyers Who Prosecuted Stevens

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 10:59 am

The Justice Department lawyers who prosecuted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will not face criminal contempt charges for failing to share evidence that could have helped his defense team, a federal judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan and the special prosecutor he appointed, Washington lawyer Henry Schuelke, had tough words for the Justice Department, though.

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Politics
10:01 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Gun Violence Survivors Push For Tighter Restrictions

Patricia Maisch, one of the people who helped halt the Tucson shooting that killed six and wounded 13, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, holds up a photograph of victim John Roll, a federal judge, while testifying before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. Maisch testified in support of legislation that would strengthen federal power over the states' handling of background checks.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 6:33 am

Dozens of gun violence survivors and family members of victims traveled to Capitol Hill this week to try to convince lawmakers to pass a bill that would tighten loopholes in the background check system for people who buy firearms.

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National Security
10:01 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

As Iraq Hostilities End, Fate Of Combatant Unclear

U.S. authorities must now decide the fate of Ali Mussa Daqduq — shown here on a poster at a 2007 U.S. military news conference in Baghdad — and other enemy combatants once troops withdraw from Iraq.
Chris Hondros AFP/Getty Images

As the U.S. winds down operations in Iraq, national security officials have a big decision to make: what to do with a senior explosives expert captured by American troops five years ago.

Ali Mussa Daqduq is accused of organizing a kidnapping in Iraq that left five U.S. service members dead. But authorities don't have the power to hold him indefinitely under the congressional authorization approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because he's tied to Hezbollah, a militant group from Lebanon — not al-Qaida.

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Around the Nation
2:46 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Gangs Enter New Territory With Sex Trafficking

Weapons and paraphernalia from gangs are displayed during a news conference in 2006. Authorities in Fairfax, Va., have brought five prostitution cases in the past year against gangs. One member of the MS-13 gang was recently sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

The MS-13 gang got its start among immigrants from El Salvador in the 1980s. Since then, the gang has built operations in 42 states, mostly out West and in the Northeastern United States, where members typically deal in drugs and weapons.

But in Fairfax County, Va., one of the wealthiest places in the country, authorities have brought five cases in the past year that focus on gang members who have pushed women, sometimes very young women, into prostitution.

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The Two-Way
7:36 am
Thu November 10, 2011

Documents Reveal More Potential Evidence-Sharing Failures By Justice Dept.

Justice Department lawyers prosecuting a former CIA agent for leaking classified information allegedly lagged in turning over evidence that would help the intelligence operative with his defense, causing the judge to bar a pair of government witnesses from testifying.

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The Two-Way
4:11 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Former Ariz. U.S. Attorney Admits Leaking 'Fast And Furious' Memo

Originally published on Tue November 8, 2011 6:55 pm

Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke came forward Tuesday to take responsibility for his role in leaking a memo used to cast aspersions on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who had blown the whistle to Congress about a botched gun-trafficking operation.

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National Security
1:00 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

GOP: Holder Hearing Leaves Unanswered Questions

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is sworn in before testifying during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the controversial "Fast and Furious" gun-trafficking program on Tuesday.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue November 8, 2011 8:15 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder spent almost three hours on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, getting a grilling from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about a flawed gun-trafficking operation that let hundreds of guns flow across the Southwest border.

But even after the Justice Department oversight hearing, Republican lawmakers say there are lots of questions that remain unanswered.

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Law
2:52 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Court To Decide If Texas Voting Maps Discriminate

A sign in Spanish and English tells residents of El Paso, Texas, where to vote.

Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 12:56 pm

Lawyers for President Obama's Justice Department and Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be squaring off in federal court in Washington on Wednesday.

The state has sued the federal government to try to win court approval for its new legislative maps. There are big stakes: Texas stands to gain four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But minorities in Texas, with a boost from the Justice Department, say the new boundaries amount to a step backward for Latino voting power.

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Law
2:52 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Official Admits 'Mistake' In Gun-Trafficking Case

U.S. Border Patrol vehicles drive from a checkpoint in December 2010, as teams of border officers comb the Arizona desert about 10 miles north of Mexico in search for a suspect in the fatal shooting of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in the rugged terrain in Rio Rico, Ariz.

Ross D. Franklin ASSOCIATED PRESS

A top political appointee in the Obama Justice Department says he made a "mistake" when he didn't flag questionable tactics used by federal agents in a gun-trafficking case for his superiors last year.

Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, told NPR he found out in April 2010 that agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had let more than 400 guns connected to suspicious buyers cross the Southwest border during the Bush years, but he didn't tell senior leadership at the Justice Department.

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The Two-Way
12:59 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Watchdogs Take Back Claim About $16 Muffins

Federal watchdogs now concede they made a mistake when they criticized the Justice Department for paying $16 each for muffins at a conference. But they also say Justice still needs to be careful about how it spends taxpayer money.

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Law
1:54 am
Wed October 26, 2011

As It Turns 10, Patriot Act Remains Controversial

Protesters hold up signs outside of Federal Hall during a demonstration against then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003 in New York City.

Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 26, 2011 8:27 am

Ten years ago, on Oct. 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act.

Congress overwhelmingly passed the law only weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. It's designed to give the FBI more power to collect information in cases that involve national security.

But in the decade since then, civil liberties groups have raised concerns about whether the Patriot Act goes too far by scooping up too much data and violating people's rights to privacy.

Nicholas Merrill is one of the people sounding an alarm.

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Law
7:59 am
Mon October 24, 2011

Big Fight Brewing In Senate Over Defense Policy Bill

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has criticized the Obama administration's stance on the detainee policy in the defense bill.

Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 4:06 pm

A big fight is brewing in the Senate over the national defense policy bill. It's legislation that would authorize a pay raise and other benefits for U.S. troops.

But the bipartisan bill also contains a provision about detainees that's raising alarms at the White House, because the Obama administration says the measure would tie its hands in some terrorism cases.

The defense authorization bill has pitted President Obama's national security advisers against some prominent Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

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Law
12:01 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Businesses Push Back On Foreign Bribery Law

One of the federal government's few success stories when it comes to policing corporate crime in recent years comes from a post-Watergate law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.

Prosecutors have used the law to get more than $1 billion in bribery fines out of huge companies like Siemens and DaimlerChrysler.

But now the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing back: It has hired former Justice Department leaders to make the case that the law is out of date.

Critics: Law Has Huge Consequences

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The Two-Way
7:04 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Justice Dept. Lawyer Exonerated, Back With Public Integrity Section

A Justice Department lawyer has returned to the unit that prosecutes sensitive public corruption cases after being transferred more than two years ago in the aftermath of the botched case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

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Law
1:01 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

Holder Takes Heat Over 'Fast And Furious' Scandal

Old hands in Washington know it's never a good sign when the president of the United States has to make a statement like this one.

"I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder, in how he handles his office," President Obama told reporters at a news conference Thursday. "He has been very aggressive in going after gun running and cash transactions that are going to these transnational drug cartels."

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National Security
2:51 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Debate Erupts Over Legality Of Al-Awlaki's Killing

Within moments of Anwar al-Awlaki's death, debate erupted over whether the U.S. had a legal basis to target one of its own citizens with deadly force.

Last year, President Obama put al-Awlaki on a secret list that gave the intelligence community a green light to target him in a deadly drone attack.

The move bothered human rights advocates so much that they sued, enlisting al-Awlaki's father as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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Law
2:55 am
Thu September 29, 2011

'Underwear Bomber' Set To Act As His Own Lawyer

An undated photo of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab posing in London.
Mike Rimmer AFP/Getty Images

When prospective jurors file into a Detroit courthouse next week for the start of a major terrorism trial, all eyes will be on the defendant, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The young man from Nigeria may be best known for allegedly trying to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009. Lately, his decision to fire his lawyers and defend himself is putting him back in the spotlight all over again.

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The Two-Way
2:21 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Justices Department Expresses Concern Over Texas Redistricting Plan

The United States Justice Department expressed concern Monday about whether new Texas redistricting plans for four U.S. House seats comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects the interests of minority voters.

In a filing with a special three-judge court panel in Washington D.C., civil rights lawyers at Justice wrote that they doubted new boundaries for the House seats "maintain or increase the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice."

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