Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson covers the Justice Department for NPR.

She has spent the last decade and a half chronicling legal affairs in the nation's capital and beyond. Johnson worked at the Washington Post from 2000 to 2010, when 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.

Johnson's work has won 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. She lives in Washington but always is planning her next exotic trip.

Pages

3:06am

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 12:30 pm

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.

Read more

5:58am

Wed October 16, 2013
National Security

Has Elite Interrogation Group Lived Up To Expectations?

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Read more

6:14pm

Wed October 2, 2013
The Two-Way

Legal Advocates Want Overhaul Of Public Defender System

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 9:55 am

Former Vice President Walter Mondale speaks at a Georgetown University Law Center discussion last week. He is one of several prominent individuals calling for better legal representation for the poor.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Prominent members of the legal community are pressuring the Obama administration to do more to ensure that poor criminal defendants have access to a lawyer, a situation that Attorney General Eric Holder has already likened to a national crisis.

Read more

12:03am

Mon September 30, 2013
The Two-Way

Justice Department Sues North Carolina Over Voter ID Law

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 5:16 pm

(This post was updated at 5 p.m.)

The Justice Department is suing North Carolina over that state's restrictive new voting law. The lawsuit takes aim at provisions that limit early voting periods and require a government photo ID as an illegal form of discrimination against minorities at the ballot box.

Read more

12:01am

Thu September 26, 2013
The Two-Way

Justice Department Pushes New Thinking On Kids And Crime

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 10:45 am

The Justice Department, along with the Department of Education, is trying to stop what experts describe as a "school-to-prison pipeline."
J. David Ake AP

For a man who spent the bulk of his career as a public defender, Robert Listenbee's new role walking around the halls of the U.S. Justice Department may not be the most comfortable fit.

But Listenbee, who became administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention earlier this year, says his transition has been smooth. And besides, he says, he couldn't resist the "extraordinary opportunity."

Read more

2:52pm

Thu September 19, 2013
The Two-Way

FBI Chief: Gunman Was 'Wandering Around Looking For People To Shoot'

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 8:11 am

FBI Director James Comey is pictured earlier this month during his swearing-in ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Susan Walsh AP

New FBI Director Jim Comey said the man who went on a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday was "wandering around looking for people to shoot" and had no apparent rhyme or reason for killing 12 people.

In his first remarks to reporters since taking office this month, Comey said the gunman, Aaron Alexis, ran out of ammunition for his legally purchased, sawed-off shotgun, exhausting a supply in his cargo pants pocket, and then began using a Beretta wrestled from a guard he had shot.

Read more

11:51am

Thu September 12, 2013
The Two-Way

New FBI Chief Says Budget Cuts Threaten Agency's Mission

Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 1:10 pm

Newly minted FBI Director James Comey speaks at a swearing-in ceremony last week at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
Susan Walsh AP

In his first full week on the job, new FBI Director Jim Comey is already expressing "intense concern" about budget cuts hitting the bureau as part of sequestration.

Comey used his first visits to FBI field offices in Virginia and New York, where he once served as a federal prosecutor, to sound an alarm about the ability to fulfill the agency's mission in a time of belt tightening.

Read more

3:02am

Tue September 3, 2013
Law

Justice Department Tackles Quality Of Defense For The Poor

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 11:37 am

People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in February. In a landmark decision half a century ago, the justices guaranteed a lawyer for criminal defendants who are too poor to afford one.
Evan Vucci AP

All over the country, lawyers who defend poor people in criminal cases have been sharing their stories about painful budget cuts. Some federal public defenders have shut their doors to new clients after big layoffs. And in many states, the public defense system has operated in crisis for years.

But an unprecedented recent court filing from the Justice Department has cheered the typically overburdened attorneys who represent the poor and could have dramatic implications for the representation of indigent defendants.

Read more

3:20pm

Tue August 27, 2013
The Two-Way

U.S. 'Ought To Respect' State Marijuana Laws, Sen. Leahy Says

Sen. Patrick Leahy is calling on the Justice Department to state its position on marijuana's legal status. Here, a man inspects a shirt depicting the U.S. flag made of marijuana symbols, at a medical marijuana show in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he's done waiting for answers about how the Justice Department will handle marijuana offenses in states that have legalized small amounts of the drug.

Read more

7:24pm

Mon August 26, 2013
The Two-Way

Justice Backs Less Protective Ruling On Reporter Privilege

In a case closely watched by the intelligence community and the media, the Justice Department urged a federal appeals court on Monday to leave in place a court ruling that gives reporters little protection from testifying against their sources in criminal prosecutions.

Read more

8:12pm

Thu August 22, 2013
National Security

Outgoing FBI Boss On His Legacy And What Kept Him Up At Night

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 7:25 am

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in June.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

For a man at the center of so many critical government actions, with a portfolio that includes preventing terrorist strikes and cyberattacks, FBI Director Robert Mueller has mostly avoided the limelight since he joined the bureau just a week before Sept. 11, 2001.

As his friend and former CIA Director George Tenet says, Mueller represents a different type.

Read more

11:06am

Wed August 21, 2013
NPR Story

Bradley Manning Sentenced To 35 Years For Leaks

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 12:03 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Army Private Bradley Manning was sentenced this morning to 35 years in a military prison. The intelligence analyst shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the website WikiLeaks in what prosecutors call the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. The 25-year-old Manning stood at attention as his sentence was handed down in a courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Read more

4:22am

Wed August 7, 2013
Law

With Holder In The Lead, Sentencing Reform Gains Momentum

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 11:21 am

Attorney General Eric Holder is calling for significant changes to the way the nation deals with convicted criminals. And he's not alone.
Evan Vucci AP

Sit down with the attorney general to ask him about his priorities, as NPR did earlier this year, and he'll talk about voting rights and national security. But if you listen a bit longer, Eric Holder gets to this: "I think there are too many people in jail for too long, and for not necessarily good reasons."

This is the nation's top law enforcement officer calling for a sea change in the criminal justice system. And he's not alone.

Read more

7:27pm

Thu July 25, 2013
It's All Politics

For Holder, An Intersection Of The Personal And Political

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 7:45 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks Thursday at the National Urban League annual conference in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke AP

Hours before Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would seek new federal powers to protect minority voters in the state of Texas, the country's top law enforcement officer mingled at a Washington event about a topic that hit close to home.

Read more

2:21pm

Fri July 19, 2013
The Two-Way

U.S. Judge 'Troubled' By Government Drone-Strike Policy

A federal judge considering a constitutional challenge to drone strikes that killed three U.S. citizens in Yemen says she's "troubled" by the idea that the courts have no role to play in what's essentially a political dispute.

Over nearly two hours of arguments in her standing-room-only Washington, D.C. courtroom, Judge Rosemary Collyer repeatedly pressed the Obama administration about its claim to a broad right to use lethal force against Americans engaged in conflict overseas, demanding more than once that government lawyers put a "fence" around their position.

Read more

1:56pm

Thu July 18, 2013
The Two-Way

Justice's Rules Mean Reporter Need Not Testify, Lawyer Says

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 8:48 pm

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency. The case that prosecutors want journalist James Risen to testify in involves an alleged leak of information by a former CIA agent.
Greg E. Mathieson Sr. MAI/Landov

A lawyer for New York Times reporter James Risen is citing new Justice Department guidelines about when to subpoena journalists to support his argument that Risen is covered by a common-law reporter's privilege and need not testify about a former CIA agent who allegedly served as his source.

Read more

4:42am

Wed July 17, 2013
Law

Holder: It's Time To Examine 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 5:08 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Attorney General Eric Holder says it is time to take a hard look at so-called Stand Your Ground laws. These are laws that allow people to use deadly force to defend themselves, if they believe they're under attack. Holder delivered that call to action yesterday in a speech to the NAACP in Orlando, Fla., a short distance away from where unarmed, black teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed last year. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

Read more

11:39am

Wed July 3, 2013
Law

Ex-FISA Court Judge Reflects: After 9/11, 'Bloodcurdling' Briefings

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 4:52 pm

Over 25 years as a federal judge, Royce Lamberth has touched some of the biggest and most contentious issues in the country. He led the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after the Sept. 11 attacks, reviewed petitions from detainees at the Guantanamo prison, and gave a boost to Native Americans suing the federal government.

Read more

3:03am

Fri June 21, 2013
National Security

Obama's Pick To Lead FBI Adds New Layer To Privacy Debate

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 4:34 am

Jim Comey, then deputy attorney general, testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in 2005.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

President Obama will formally nominate Jim Comey to be the country's next FBI director on Friday.

Comey, a registered Republican and longtime federal prosecutor, is best-known for raising alarms inside the Bush White House about a secret electronic surveillance program. That issue has taken on new resonance after disclosures about the Obama administration's dragnet collection of American phone records.

Read more

9:20am

Sat June 15, 2013
The Two-Way

Source: Obama Considering Releasing NSA Court Order

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 4:00 pm

NPR has learned that the Obama administration, under pressure to lift a cloak of secrecy, is considering whether to declassify a court order that gives the National Security Agency the power to gather phone call record information on millions of Americans.

Read more

2:54am

Thu June 6, 2013
Law

Holder On The Hot Seat Over Leak Investigations

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 5:52 am

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on May 15 before the House Judiciary Committee.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder has been a lightning rod for the president's fiercest critics during his four years in office. Lately, he's been back on the hot seat with a crisis of his own making: the Justice Department's aggressive stance toward reporters in national security leak cases.

Holder heads to the Senate on Thursday, where lawmakers are sure to demand an explanation.

Read more

6:21pm

Tue June 4, 2013
The Two-Way

Defense: Too Many Documents 'Classifed' In Rosen Leak Case

The lawyer for Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a former State Department contractor charged with leaking top-secret information to Fox News, has accused the intelligence community of impeding his defense by slapping the "classified" label on hundreds of irrelevant and harmless documents.

Read more

3:35am

Mon June 3, 2013
Law

Intent To Harm At Center Of Bradley Manning's Trial

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 10:23 am

Protesters march during a rally in support of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning outside Fort Meade, Md., on Saturday. Manning, who is scheduled to face a court-martial beginning Monday, is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified records to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.
Patrick Semansky AP

In the three years since his arrest, Bradley Manning, the slight Army private first class with close-cropped blond hair and thick military glasses, has become less of a character than a cause.

"Bradley Manning is a very polarizing figure. People either think that he is a hero or they think he's a traitor," says Elizabeth Goitein, who co-directs the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "I actually think that he's somewhere in between."

Read more

6:00pm

Wed May 29, 2013
The Two-Way

Former Justice Official In Line To Be Named FBI Chief

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 6:25 am

Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on May 15, 2007. NPR has learned that Comey is in line to become President Obama's choice as the next FBI director.
Susan Walsh AP

NPR has learned that former Justice Department official James B. Comey is in line to become President Obama's choice as the next FBI director, according to two sources familiar with the search.

Read more

2:56am

Wed May 29, 2013
It's All Politics

Senators Tussle Over Proposal To 'Unpack' Key D.C. Court

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 10:47 am

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has proposed cutting three seats from a key D.C. appeals court.
Cliff Owen AP

More than 75 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt caused an uproar with his plan to "pack" the Supreme Court with friendly justices. It was an audacious effort to protect his New Deal initiatives.

Now, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has floated the reverse — legislation that would cut three seats from the important D.C. Circuit appeals court, just as President Obama prepares to announce his nominees for those jobs.

The Court-Packing Plan

Read more

12:22pm

Tue May 28, 2013
The Two-Way

Gallup Nears Settlement Deal With DOJ In Overbilling Case

The Gallup Organization has reached "an agreement in principle" with the Justice Department to settle civil allegations that the polling company overbilled the U.S. government by providing inflated estimates for federal contracts, according to a new court filing.

A deal could be announced by mid-June, the court filing says, bringing an end to a costly and embarrassing episode that first came to light when a Gallup insider blew the whistle.

Read more

3:05am

Thu May 23, 2013
Law

Sick Inmates Dying Behind Bars Despite Release Program

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 12:54 pm

Nearly 30 years ago, Congress gave terminally ill inmates and prisoners with extraordinary family circumstances an early way out, known as compassionate release.
iStockphoto.com

Prison is a tough place, but Congress made an exception nearly 30 years ago, giving terminally ill inmates and prisoners with extraordinary family circumstances an early way out. It's called compassionate release.

But a recent investigation found that many federal inmates actually die while their requests drift through the system.

One of them was Clarence Allen Rice.

Read more

7:11pm

Mon May 20, 2013
The Two-Way

Key Charge Against Ex-BP Official In Spill Case Dismissed

David Rainey, a former BP vice president during the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, leaves federal court after being arraigned on obstruction of a federal investigation in New Orleans on Nov. 28, 2012. A federal judge Monday dismissed the charge that Rainey obstructed a congressional investigation into the 2010 spill.
Matthew Hinton AP

It's another bad day for the Justice Department.

A federal judge in Louisiana has thrown out the central criminal charge against a former BP executive because prosecutors failed to prove he knew about a pending congressional investigation into oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico three years ago. U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt also ruled that a Democratic House member who inquired about the oil flow rate was acting as head of a subcommittee, not a full congressional committee, as required under the federal Obstruction of Justice statute.

Read more

6:04am

Wed May 15, 2013
Politics

Holder Called To Capitol Hill To Testify On Controversies

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 6:23 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Renee Montagne is in Afghanistan this week. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. When we think about the controversies swirling around Washington this week, there's a common denominator. They fall on the shoulders of Attorney General Eric Holder.

INSKEEP: First, news broke that the Justice Department secretly obtained phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. This has ignited a First Amendment uproar.

Read more

3:25am

Tue May 14, 2013
Law

Justice Department Secretly Obtains AP Phone Records

Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 1:19 pm

The screen on the phone console at the reception desk at The Associated Press Washington bureau.
Jon Elswick AP

The Associated Press is protesting what it calls a massive and unprecedented intrusion into its gathering of news. The target of that wrath is the U.S. Justice Department, which secretly collected phone records for several AP reporters last year. The AP says it's caught in the middle of a Justice Department leak investigation.

The scope of the Justice Department subpoenas is what gives David Schultz, a lawyer for AP, pause.

Read more

Pages