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.

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8:00am

Sat July 2, 2011
Around the Nation

He Said, She Said: Now It's Just The Lawyers Talking

Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released Friday.
Todd Heisler AFP/Getty Images

The troubles that hit the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn this week may find a place in history books. As presiding judge Michael Obus put it mildly in court Friday, "I understand that the circumstances surrounding this case, from the viewpoint of the parties, have changed substantially."

With full agreement from prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's office, a man who spent weeks under house arrest walked out of the courthouse Friday with a smile, his arm slung around the shoulders of his wife.

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12:01am

Tue June 28, 2011
Law

Human Rights Defender Now Fights For U.S. Policy

Harold Koh (left), the top lawyer at the U.S. State Department, stands with Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner during a news conference after the United States' first review before the U.N. Human Rights Council last November.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

As a young teacher fighting all the way to the Supreme Court for Haitian refugees, and later, as the dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh became one of the country's most prominent defenders of human rights.

But as the top lawyer at the Obama State Department, Koh has been defending a lot of things that surprise his friends, including U.S. involvement in Libya without the approval of Congress.

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10:02am

Fri June 24, 2011
National Security

Lawmakers Criticize 'Fast and Furious' Operation

The scandal is widening over a U.S. law enforcement operation that lost track of guns later discovered at crime scenes on the Southwest border. The Justice Department and Republicans in Congress are trading accusations over who approved the operation. But what's getting lost in all the politics may be the larger effort to take down violent drug and gun traffickers.

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3:58am

Thu June 23, 2011
National Security

Debate: Did Obama Overstep His Authority In Libya?

The White House says it is confident President Obama has followed the law when it comes to U.S. involvement in Libya. But members of Congress and legal scholars aren't so sure. They're debating whether the president exceeded his authority by not getting approval from Congress.

Nearly 38 years ago, lawmakers passed the War Powers Resolution. Congress directed the White House to get permission within two months of starting hostilities.

But when it came to moving against Libya in April, Obama took an unusual approach. Like a lot of clever lawyers, he found an artful dodge.

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6:36pm

Wed June 22, 2011
Around the Nation

Man Linked To 2010 D.C.-Area Shootings

Federal sources say ballistics evidence ties a man arrested at Arlington National Cemetery last week to a series of mysterious shootings in the Washington, D.C., area.

Yonathan Melaku, 22, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, has been in custody since police found him wandering last week after the cemetery had closed. He was carrying a backpack he said was full of explosives. The FBI later determined the material in the backpack was inert.

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12:01am

Tue June 21, 2011
Law

'Times' Reporter To Challenge Subpoena In Leak Case

Jim Risen, a reporter for The New York Times, will ask a court Tuesday to throw out a Justice Department subpoena. Risen says he doesn't want to testify against a CIA agent accused of leaking classified information.

Risen has a history of digging for government secrets and finding pay dirt. He helped expose the government's warrantless wiretapping program. And he ventured into the shadows again to write a history of the CIA during President George W. Bush's years.

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3:36pm

Fri June 17, 2011
Law

Another Tug-of-War Over Location Of Terrorism Trial

Iraqi refugees Waad Alwan (left) and Mohanad Hammadi were arrested May 25 in Kentucky for allegedly conspiring to aid al-Qaida. If convicted on all charges, each could face life in prison.
U.S. Marshals Service AFP/Getty Images

The case of two Iraqi refugees captured in Kentucky after an FBI sting operation is reigniting the political debate over where to bring terrorists to justice.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says the men pose a danger to the people in his state and he wants them sent to Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. detention facility in Cuba. But, Justice Department leaders say the real danger is fear-mongering by politicians.

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3:00pm

Wed June 15, 2011
Around the Nation

ATF Agents: Gun Program A Leadership Failure

Three agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms marched to Congress on Wednesday to blow the whistle on a risky operation targeting gun traffickers.

They told the House Government Reform Committee that more than 1,000 guns tied to the ATF's investigation of drug cartels are still missing somewhere in the U.S. and Mexico. Lawmakers want to know who approved the operation in the first place.

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6:01pm

Tue June 14, 2011
Politics

Hearing To Examine Terrorist Recruitment In Prisons

U.S. Representative Peter King of New York, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, uses his gavel to begin the first in a series of hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 10, 2011. The hearings have gotten heat from civil liberties groups who say there is not enough evidence.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday that looks at terrorist recruitment inside the walls of American jails and prisons. The last time New York Congressman Peter King (R) examined radicalization among Muslims, he generated a huge backlash from religious and civil rights groups.

But people who study prisons said the number of criminals who turn to extremism behind bars is small but worrisome. And they all point to the same case to open the conversation.

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4:28pm

Sun June 12, 2011
U.S.

Policing The Police: U.S. Steps Up Enforcement

Demonstrators march in the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, in Los Angeles in 2009.
David McNew Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department is stepping up its scrutiny of troubled police departments. Federal civil rights lawyers are investigating 15 departments from Arizona to New Jersey, asking whether officers are discriminating against minorities or using too much force.

When it comes to federal oversight of local police, there's only one place to start: the brutal attack on Rodney King. A Los Angeles police chief admitted King had been hit with batons more than 50 times, kicked at least seven times and shocked with a stun gun.

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8:21am

Sun June 12, 2011
Law

Politics Unavoidable In John Edwards Indictment

As legal experts debate the strength of the campaign finance case against former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, details are emerging of how the indictment came about.

Lawyers for Edwards had pressed Justice Department officials for weeks to end the two-year investigation of the once-prominent Democrat with no criminal charges, a decision that would have carried profound political fallout. It would have been a hard sell even in an ordinary prosecution, let alone one completely interwined with politics.

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12:01am

Wed June 8, 2011
National Security

Terrorism Case Exposes Gaps In Refugee Screening

Iraqi refugees Waad Alwan (left) and Mohanad Hammadi (right) were arrested May 25 in Kentucky for allegedly conspiring to aid al-Qaida. If convicted on all charges, each could face life in prison.
U.S. Marshals Service AFP/Getty Images

Two Iraqi men are due in court in Kentucky on Wednesday to face charges that they tried to send missiles to al-Qaida. The men moved to the U.S. as part of a program to resettle thousands of refugees from Iraq. But national security experts say their presence here has exposed an alarming gap in the screening process.

Waad Alwan arrived in Bowling Green, Ky., two years ago to build a new life. But when he applied to a refugee program for Iraqis, Homeland Security officials didn't know the military had lifted his fingerprints from a bomb designed to hurt U.S. troops in Iraq.

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12:31pm

Thu June 2, 2011
It's All Politics

White House Counsel Bauer Exits, Replaced By Career Prosecutor

President Obama's top lawyer, Bob Bauer, is leaving the White House to return to his law firm, Perkins and Coie.

Bauer isn't leaving Obama's orbit completely, however. He will advise Mr. Obama's reelection campaign and serve as the president's personal lawyer.

He'll be replaced by a veteran prosecutor, Kathleen Ruemmler. She has spent most of her career at the Justice Department.

She started out handling drug and crime cases in Washington D.C. then then took on a leading role in the prosecution of former Enron executives.

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4:00am

Thu June 2, 2011
Law

DOJ Advocates Changes For Crack Cocaine Offenses

The Obama administration says it will support leniency for people already behind bars for crack cocaine offenses. The proposal could send thousands of federal inmates home early. This is a major civil rights issue since law disproportionately affects minorities.

9:16am

Tue May 24, 2011
The Two-Way

New York Times Reporter Subpoenaed In Leak Investigation

Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed New York Times reporter James Risen, to try to get him to testify against a former CIA operative accused of leaking classified information about U.S. covert programs that later appeared in Risen's book State of War.

The subpoena was disclosed in a court filing late Monday night in the Eastern District of Virginia, where onetime CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling awaits trial on charges that could send him to prison for decades.

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12:01am

Mon May 23, 2011
Politics

Making It Official: Hunting Al-Qaida Worldwide

This week, the House begins debate on a defense spending bill that would authorize the president to attack al-Qaida and its associates all over the world.

Supporters say the measure would give the U.S. more leeway to fight terrorists after the death of Osama bin Laden. But critics worry that it hands the White House too much power.

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3:00pm

Thu May 19, 2011
Around the Nation

FBI Requests DNA Sample From Unabomber

The FBI has requested a DNA sample from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in connection with the infamous 1982 Tylenol poisonings in Chicago that killed seven and prompted a recall of the painkiller. Kaczynski is serving a life sentence for his part in bombings that killed three people.

12:05pm

Thu May 19, 2011
The Two-Way

FBI Checking Unabomber In Tylenol Poisoning Murders

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski is escorted into the federal courthouse in Helena, Mont., Thursday, April 4, 1996.
ELAINE THOMPSON ASSOCIATED PRESS

The FBI has requested a DNA sample from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in connection with the infamous 1982 Tylenol poisonings. Kaczynski wrote in court papers that federal investigators want his DNA to find out whether he was involved in putting cyanide in Tylenol pills decades ago.

Cynthia Yates, an FBI spokeswoman in Chicago, said in an interview that Kaczynski hasn't provided investigators with a sample. Yates added the bureau has "attempted to get DNA samples from numerous individuals" as part of a broad reexamination of evidence in the still unsolved 1982 poisonings.

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7:50am

Sat May 14, 2011
Law

Prosecutors Press On After Insider Trading Conviction

Raj Rajaratnam leaves court after he was convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges May 11 in New York. That conviction has energized the government's campaign against insider trading.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

This week's conviction of hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam is breathing new life into the government's campaign against insider trading. Prosecutors in Manhattan have 11 more defendants waiting in the dock — and another big trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Over the past few years, federal prosecutors in New York have filed insider trading charges against 47 people. More than half of them pleaded guilty — but not Zvi Goffer.

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12:51pm

Thu May 12, 2011
The Two-Way

Obama Wants FBI Director Mueller To Stay An Additional Two Years

FBI Director Robert Mueller. (Sept. 22, 2010, file photo.)
Alex Wong Getty Images

President Obama has announced he will ask Congress to extend the tenure of his FBI director for two more years.

Robert Mueller's 10-year term is set to expire in September.

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12:01am

Wed May 11, 2011
Law

Case Against WikiLeaks Part Of Broader Campaign

A federal grand jury is scheduled to hear testimony Wednesday in the government's criminal investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Carl Court AFP/Getty Images

A federal grand jury in Virginia is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday from witnesses in one of the government's biggest criminal investigations of a national security leak.

Prosecutors are trying to build a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website has embarrassed the U.S. government by disclosing sensitive diplomatic and military information.

The WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers.

A Worrisome Development

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1:24pm

Wed May 4, 2011
Osama Bin Laden Killed

Harsh Interrogation Tactics: Did They Work?

Finding Osama bin Laden has been the holy grail of U.S. intelligence for the past 10 years. For half of that time, an argument has raged over how far the U.S. government should go to get information out of members of al-Qaida.

The U.S. government stopped using enhanced interrogation techniques like simulated drowning, or waterboarding, on terrorism suspects years ago.

Now, former Bush administration officials say those harsh tactics led the U.S. military to bin Laden's hideout; the Obama White House says it's not so simple.

Room For Interpretation

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12:01am

Wed May 4, 2011
Law

Attorney General: 'Right Decision' On Sept. 11 Trials

The daring U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden may have closed a chapter in America's long fight against terrorism, but as with many other national security issues that Eric Holder has faced in two years as attorney general, there's no end to the complications, even in a time of good news.

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3:40pm

Tue April 26, 2011
It's All Politics

Attorney General Holder Backs Paul Clement On DOMA Defense

To the list of prominent lawyers defending former Solicitor General Paul Clement's decision to leave his law firm and keep defending an increasingly unpopular federal statute that prohibits same sex marriage, add this one: Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

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4:00am

Tue April 26, 2011
Law

Under Pressure, Firm Drops DOMA Defense

The law firm hired by House Republicans to defend the Defense of Marriage Act has resigned the case. The Atlanta firm King & Spalding was under pressure from gay rights advocates. One of its partners, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, is leaving the firm to defend DOMA himself.

4:36pm

Wed April 20, 2011
Business

After Financial Crisis, Wheels Of Justice Turn Slowly

This week, a federal jury in Virginia convicted mortgage executive Lee Farkas of fraud and conspiracy charges that could send him to prison for life.

Authorities say Farkas tried to defraud banks out of almost $3 billion, in one of the biggest cases to come out of the mortgage crisis. And that, critics say, is the problem.

Almost three years after the economy nearly collapsed, most top Wall Street banks and their executives have emerged with no criminal trouble. And that's making people angry.

Madoff And More

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2:37pm

Mon April 18, 2011
Around the Nation

Legal Drama Over Gulf Oil Spill Could Last Years

Last year's huge oil spill left an enduring mark on communities along the Gulf Coast. But courts are just starting to turn to the question of who's to blame for the disaster — and who should pay for it.

Hundreds of lawsuits are moving through a federal court in New Orleans; judges combined the cases to make it easier to handle them. Among those suing: restaurant owners, wildlife supporters and families of some of the 11 workers who died on the oil rig.

The Plaintiffs

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12:01am

Mon April 18, 2011
Politics

Republicans Mount Defense Of Anti-Gay Marriage Law

On Monday, House Republicans are scheduled to weigh in with a federal court in New York on the side of a law called the Defense of Marriage Act.

Big majorities in Congress passed the law 15 years ago to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Usually, it's the Justice Department that speaks up when federal laws are challenged in court. But in this case, the Obama administration has declined to defend a law it considers unconstitutional.

The decision generated controversy among conservatives and even within the Justice Department.

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6:06pm

Tue March 29, 2011
The Two-Way

Justice Dept. Finds No Malfeasance In Black Panther Voter Intimidation Case

Ethics investigators in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility have concluded their probe into the controversial New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case without finding any misconduct, they said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by NPR.

The letter by counsel Robin C. Ashton to members of the House Judiciary Committee reports that "department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately."

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