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

11:06am

Fri January 25, 2013
The Two-Way

Obama To Name New Chief Of Staff, New Counterterrorism Adviser

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 1:05 pm

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

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

2:49am

Fri January 25, 2013
It's All Politics

Sponsors Of Assault Weapons Ban Hope Newtown Shooting Changes Minds

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 9:14 am

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

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

5:38am

Sat January 19, 2013
It's All Politics

A Gun Owner From The Left, Sen. Leahy Leads The Debate

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 7:13 am

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

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

4:46pm

Tue January 15, 2013
Law

Did Prosecutors Go Too Far In Swartz Case?

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 7:54 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

9:41am

Mon January 14, 2013
The Two-Way

Lawmaker Plans Bill To Lift Immunity For Gun Manufacturers And Dealers

Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.
Gus Chan The Plain Dealer /Landov

Add this to the list of proposals to overhaul the gun industry: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says he will introduce legislation this week to roll back legal immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers.

Schiff tells NPR there's no need for the 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to remain on the books. That law gave gun makers, gun dealers and trade groups immunity from most negligence and product liability lawsuits. "Good gun companies don't need special protection from the law," Schiff says, "Bad companies don't deserve it."

Read more

3:23am

Mon January 14, 2013
It's All Politics

Lack Of Up-To-Date Research Complicates Gun Debate

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 3:27 pm

Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, shown in Kansas in 2011, added language to the Justice Department's annual spending bill in 2003 that has put limits on the sharing of government gun records.
John Hanna AP

Vice President Joe Biden is getting ready to make recommendations on how to reduce gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

But he says his task force is facing an unexpected obstacle: slim or outdated research on weapons.

Public health research dried up more than a decade ago after Congress restricted the use of some federal money to pay for those studies.

A Researcher Under Fire

Read more

2:46pm

Thu January 3, 2013
The Two-Way

Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 6:10 pm

The Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drill ship collects oil from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well as workers try to stem the flow of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, June 12, 2010.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig where 11 men died in April 2010, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties to resolve Justice Department allegations over its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Read more

3:00am

Tue January 1, 2013
Law

Justice Wants Banks To Be Quasi Cops

Originally published on Tue January 1, 2013 9:44 am

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer announces a nearly $2 billion money laundering settlement with British bank HSBC on Dec. 11 in New York City.
Ramin Talaie Getty Images

Every year, banks handle tens of millions of transactions. Some of them involve drug money, or deals with companies doing secret business with countries like Iran and Syria, in defiance of trade sanctions.

But if the Justice Department has its way, banks will be forced to change — to spot illegal transactions and blow the whistle before any money changes hands.

Federal prosecutors have already collected more than $4.5 billion from some of the world's biggest financial institutions — banks charged with looking the other way when dirty money passed through their accounts.

Read more

6:03pm

Mon December 31, 2012
It's All Politics

Chief Justice John Roberts On Fiscal Woes: Don't Look At Us

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 6:22 pm

Chief Justice John Roberts speaks in Farmington, Pa., in June.
Ann Wilkins AP

Chief Justice John Roberts wants everyone to know the federal judiciary is doing its part to keep down government costs. Roberts used his year-end report on the state of the courts to point out that the judicial branch consumes "a miniscule portion of the federal budget" — about $7 billion in fiscal year 2012, or two-tenths of 1 percent of the total government budget.

Read more

3:45am

Tue December 18, 2012
Law

'Black America's Law Firm' Looks To Big Cases With New Leadership

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 2:47 pm

Sherrilyn Ifill will become the new president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in January.
Courtesy of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has been called the law firm for black America. Once run by Thurgood Marshall, the group played a major role in desegregating public schools and fighting restrictions at the ballot box.

Now, the Legal Defense Fund is preparing for a new leader — just as the Supreme Court considers cases that could pare back on those gains.

Read more

7:38pm

Fri December 14, 2012
Shootings In Newtown, Conn.

Authorities Release Name Of Newtown, Conn. Shooter

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 10:27 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Read more

3:26am

Thu December 13, 2012
It's All Politics

Report On CIA Interrogation Tactics Revives Torture Debate

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 9:03 am

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have opposing views about a report detailing CIA detention and interrogation practices.
Alex Wong Getty Images

In a closed-door meeting Thursday, lawmakers will consider whether to approve a secret report that chronicles CIA detention and interrogation practices — including methods that critics have compared to torture.

That report — along with the release of a new movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden — is rekindling an old debate about whether those methods worked.

Read more

3:59pm

Thu December 6, 2012
It's All Politics

White House Dismisses Constitutional Challenge In Debt Ceiling Saga

White House spokesman Jay Carney briefs reporters Thursday at the White House. "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period," he said.
Charles Dharapak AP

White House spokesman Jay Carney put an end to intense speculation Thursday about whether President Obama would do an end run around Congress with one simple line: "This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period."

Some Democrats had been urging Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit — a bold move that would take away Republican leverage in the ongoing negotiations over taxes and spending.

Read more

2:35am

Wed December 5, 2012
It's All Politics

Is A Recess Appointment Valid If The Senate Says It's Not Really Gone?

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 9:09 am

The Senate side of the U.S. Capitol.
Win McNamee Getty Images

In a tug of war between President Obama and Congress, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., will hear arguments Wednesday on the legality of Obama's controversial recess appointments.

The White House says it was forced to install three new members of the National Labor Relations Board in January because of inaction by Senate Republicans. But those lawmakers argue the Senate wasn't really in a recess at the time.

Read more

5:04am

Fri November 30, 2012
Law

Federal 'Compassionate' Prison Release Rarely Given

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 7:05 am

A new report says federal prison officials rarely grant "compassionate release," even for the most gravely ill inmates.
iStockphoto.com

Back in 1984, Congress gave authorities the power to let people out of federal prison early, in extraordinary circumstances, like if inmates were gravely ill or dying. But a new report says the Federal Bureau of Prisons blocks all but a few inmates from taking advantage of "compassionate release."

Read more

4:48pm

Mon November 26, 2012
Law

Manning Plea Offer Another Odd Piece Of An Odd Case

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 6:18 pm

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after a pretrial hearing in June. Manning is charged with aiding the enemy by giving hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and war logs to the secret-sharing website WikiLeaks.
Patrick Semansky AP

The young Army private accused of passing diplomatic cables and war reports to the website WikiLeaks has made an unusual offer: Bradley Manning says he'll plead guilty to minor charges in the case. But he rejects the idea that he ever acted as a spy or helped America's enemies.

Read more

3:25am

Tue November 20, 2012
Law

Will U.S. Try To Snuff Out State Marijuana Laws?

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 4:54 pm

A worker inspects a marijuana plant at a grow house in Denver on Nov. 8.
Ed Andrieski AP

The Justice Department has a big decision to make.

Parts of new laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana will take effect early next month. The Obama administration needs to choose whether it will sue to stop the legislation or let those states go their own way — even though the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says the message he got from voters is unambiguous.

Read more

4:49am

Mon November 19, 2012
Law

BP Legal Troubles Persist Over Gulf Spill

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 10:38 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Read more

1:45pm

Thu November 15, 2012
The Two-Way

Four More BP Employees Will Be Charged In Oil Spill

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 5:12 pm

Two sources tell NPR that four more BP employees will be charged in relation to the BP oil spill, which dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The individuals facing manslaughter charges are former BP well managers Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza. Another high ranking official, David Rainey, the former head of Gulf of Mexico exploration, will be charged with downplaying the spill to lawmakers. One more lower ranking BP employee will face insider trading charges.

Read more

7:49am

Thu November 15, 2012
The Two-Way

BP Pleads Guilty, Will Pay $4 Billion In Criminal Penalties For Gulf Oil Spill

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 6:32 pm

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Getty Images

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Oil giant BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the 2010 Gulf Oil spill and will pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties, the company just confirmed. And it will pay $525 million in civil penalties in a resolution with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. BP will make the payments over six years.

Read more

5:35pm

Tue November 13, 2012
It's All Politics

Petraeus Scandal Raises Concerns About Email Privacy

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 10:44 am

David Petraeus, then-CIA director, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in January. Petraeus resigned Friday after acknowledging an extramarital affair.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

The FBI review of sensitive email messages between former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer-mistress Paula Broadwell has been raising big questions about Big Brother.

One of them: When can federal law enforcement review a person's private communications?

To Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, the real scandal over the Petraeus affair is not the extramarital sex, but the invasion of privacy.

Read more

3:14am

Tue November 13, 2012
National Security

The FBI's Role In The Petraeus Investigation

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 12:40 pm

Members of Congress want to know why they didn't know more about the investigation involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, seen here testifying on Capitol Hill on Feb. 2.
Cliff Owen AP

In Washington scandals, the question is usually what the White House knew.

But in the case of former CIA Director David Petraeus, lawmakers are asking why President Obama did not know about a federal investigation that had found evidence Petraeus was having an affair.

Read more

5:54pm

Tue November 6, 2012
It's All Politics

Republicans Keep The House; Democrats To Retain Senate

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 6:45 am

Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race on Tuesday.
Michael Dwyer AP

Republicans have easily maintained their hold on the House, while missteps from Tea Party favorites helped Democrats retain a majority in the Senate.

That means the two chambers of Congress remain deeply divided, with prospects for agreement on such big-ticket items as deficits, tax rates and climate change unclear.

Read more

7:01am

Tue November 6, 2012
It's All Politics

The Battle For Congress: Senate And House Races To Watch

Originally published on Tue November 6, 2012 7:02 pm

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., shakes hands with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren at their Oct. 1 debate in Lowell, Mass. The race is one of a handful of contests that could determine party control of the Senate.
Charles Krupa AP

For Republicans itching to regain control of the Senate, Tuesday's election presents a rare opportunity. Only 10 GOP incumbents are on the ballot, compared with nearly two dozen Democrats and independents who caucus with them.

That means the magic number for Republicans is low. They need only a net gain of three or four seats to take over the Senate — and, assuming they keep the U.S. House of Representatives, consolidate their influence on Capitol Hill. Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to seize the House, a goal that political analysts consider all but out of reach.

Read more

5:03am

Wed October 24, 2012
Around the Nation

Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 7:30 am

The number of boys locked up for crimes has dropped over the past decade, but the number of young women detained in jails and residential centers has moved in the other direction.

Read more

5:21pm

Tue October 23, 2012
NPR Story

Former CIA Agent Pleads Guilty To Leaking Info

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 4:18 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

A big development today in the Justice Department's crackdown on national security leaks. A former CIA agent pleaded guilty to revealing the name of a covert operative to a reporter. John Kiriakou agreed to spend two and a half years in prison.

NPR's Carrie Johnson was in the courtroom in Virginia for the plea hearing and joins us now to talk about the case. Welcome, Carrie.

Read more

6:01pm

Mon October 22, 2012
The Two-Way

Lawmakers Demand Update On 'Fast And Furious' Personnel

Two Republican lawmakers investigating the botched gun trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious say they aren't finished yet.

In a letter obtained by NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., are demanding an update on personnel actions taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives after a lengthy investigation by Congress and the Justice Department inspector general.

Read more

5:39pm

Mon October 22, 2012
The Two-Way

UPDATE: Former CIA Officer Pleads Guilty In Leak Case

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 12:11 pm

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou (right), accompanied by his attorney, John Hundley, leaving federal court in Alexandria, Va., last January.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET, Oct. 23:

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, as expected, pleaded guilty this morning to revealing an undercover operative's identity.

According to The Associated Press:

Read more

4:24pm

Mon October 22, 2012
Law

What Happens After Jurors Get It Wrong?

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 8:16 pm

Juror Anita Woodruff is haunted by her decision to help convict Santae Tribble of murder.
Carrie Johnson NPR

About 300 people have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated in the U.S. thanks to DNA evidence. But overlooked in those stories are the accounts of jurors who unwittingly played a role in the injustice.

One of those stories is playing out in Washington, D.C., where two jurors who helped convict a teenager of murder in 1981 are now persuaded that they were wrong. They're dealing with their sense of responsibility by leading the fight to declare him legally innocent.

Read more

2:51am

Fri October 19, 2012
U.S.

With A Phone Call, Truckers Can Fight Sex Trafficking

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 1:03 pm

Errol Giwa, en route to Washington, D.C., fuels up and wipes down his windshield at the truck stop in Jessup, Md. He says in his 34 years as a truck driver, he has heard of many instances of human trafficking at truck stops but hasn't seen it with his own eyes. "If you are looking for that sort of thing, it's not hard to find on the road," Giwa says.
Brakkton Booker NPR

Eight years ago, a truck driver parked at a travel center near Detroit made a phone call that changed a life.

"I pulled into a truck stop about midnight," Willis Wolfswinkel remembered. "Getting my log book done. Had two girls knock on my door. And I waved them on 'cause I knew what they were looking for."

Something about those girls bothered Wolfswinkel. They looked young, so he called 911.

When the girls went inside another truck in the same lot, he called again. Wolfswinkel kept watching as the police arrived.

Read more

Pages