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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5:45pm

Wed January 11, 2012
The Two-Way

Justice Department's No. 3 Stepping Down

Originally published on Wed January 11, 2012 5:53 pm

Outgoing Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli will leave the third highest-ranking post at the Justice Department in March after nearly three years managing a bustling portfolio that has run the gamut from mortgage abuses and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to stamping out domestic violence in Indian country.

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5:00am

Sat January 7, 2012
Politics

Debate Over Appointees Hinges On One Word: Recess

President Obama took a controversial step this week in making appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board during what the White House considered a congressional recess, bypassing any objections from lawmakers.

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3:00pm

Fri January 6, 2012
NPR Story

Justice Department Redefines Rape

The Justice Department is redefining the criminal definition of "rape" for the first time since the 1920s. It will now include same-sex assaults and a definition beyond actual intercourse. This will change the way local police departments report crime statistics.

8:00am

Sat December 17, 2011
National Security

Soldier's Hearing Weighs Harm From Wikileaks

Military prosecutors say Army Pvt. Bradley Manning downloaded troves of secret documents from a computer station in Baghdad and passed them to Wikileaks. If investigators recommend that Manning face court martial, it could land him in prison for the rest of his life. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

12:01am

Fri December 16, 2011
National Security

Bradley Manning To Appear In Court In Leaks Case

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:23 pm

Supporters say Army Pfc. Bradley Manning doesn't belong in a courtroom at all. They think he's a whistle-blower — and a hero.

Eighteen months after his arrest on suspicion of leaking national secrets, Manning will finally make his first appearance in court Friday at Fort Meade, Md., just north of Washington, D.C.

When he worked in Iraq, Manning allegedly downloaded thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables and shared them with the website WikiLeaks. He faces 22 criminal charges that could keep him behind bars for life.

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10:32am

Thu December 15, 2011
Around the Nation

Probe Finds Arizona Sheriff Violated Civil Rights

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has forced inmates to wear pink and live in tent cities, gaining him a reputation as America's toughest sheriff.
Joshua Lott Getty Images

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a national reputation for being tough on crime but now the Arizona law man is in the spotlight for a different reason.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice released the results of a three-year investigation in which authorities conclude that Arpaio and his deputies are the ones who've been breaking law.

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3:15pm

Tue December 13, 2011
Law

Immigration Detainees Seek Prison-Rape Protection

Human rights advocates are calling on the Obama administration to do more to protect people in immigration detention centers from sexual assault. A new federal rule that will take effect next year covers inmates in jails and prisons, but some Homeland Security officials want an exemption for facilities that house illegal immigrants.

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2:42pm

Thu December 8, 2011
U.S.

Fast And Furious Questions For U.S. Attorney General

Originally published on Thu December 8, 2011 10:08 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Judiciary Committee. He faces tough questions about the Justice Department's "Fast and Furious" gun-control program.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder got a bruising reception from the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee that put the Justice Department on the defensive.

Holder answered questions about the botched gun trafficking operation known as "Fast and Furious" in which federal agents tried to build cases against drug cartels. Instead, they lost track of hundreds of weapons that turned up at crime scenes along the Southwest border.

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2:22pm

Wed December 7, 2011
The Two-Way

Senator Calls For Justice's Criminal Division Chief To Step Down

Iowa Republican Charles Grassley took to the Senate floor Wednesday to declare that a senior Justice Department official "needs to go immediately" for allegedly misleading Congress in its 11-month-old investigation of a gun trafficking operation gone bad.

"It's past time for accountability at the senior levels of the Justice Department," Grassley said. "That accountability needs to start with the head of the criminal division, Lanny Breuer."

In a 15-minute speech, Grassley set out two main reasons for demanding Breuer's ouster.

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6:14pm

Fri December 2, 2011
The Two-Way

Justice Withdraws Inaccurate 'Fast And Furious' Letter It Sent To Congress

Under fire for losing track of weapons that turned up at crime scenes along the Southwest border, the Justice Department has taken the extraordinary step of formally withdrawing an inaccurate letter about the episode that it sent to Congress earlier this year.

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4:00am

Fri December 2, 2011
National Security

Defense Bill Requires Military To Hold Terror Suspects

The Senate has passed a defense policy bill that includes controversial provisions requiring terrorism suspects be held in military rather than civilian custody. President Obama has threatened a veto.

12:01am

Thu December 1, 2011
U.S.

States Fail In Fight Against Sex Trafficking

Originally published on Thu December 1, 2011 5:10 am

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

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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1:13pm

Wed November 30, 2011
The Two-Way

Prosecutors Say John Hinckley Is Still A Threat

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 1:15 pm

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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12:01am

Wed November 30, 2011
Law

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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5:32am

Sun November 27, 2011
Law

Beyond Fighting Crime, FBI Reaches Out To Victims

Originally published on Sun November 27, 2011 5:57 pm

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

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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8:09pm

Tue November 22, 2011
Law

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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12:00pm

Mon November 21, 2011
The Two-Way

No Criminal Charges Against Justice Dept. Lawyers Who Prosecuted Stevens

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 12:59 pm

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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12:01am

Wed November 16, 2011
Politics

Gun Violence Survivors Push For Tighter Restrictions

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 8:33 am

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

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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12:01am

Tue November 15, 2011
National Security

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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4:46pm

Mon November 14, 2011
Around the Nation

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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9:36am

Thu November 10, 2011
The Two-Way

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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6:11pm

Tue November 8, 2011
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Tue November 8, 2011 8:55 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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3:00pm

Tue November 8, 2011
National Security

GOP: Holder Hearing Leaves Unanswered Questions

Originally published on Tue November 8, 2011 10:15 pm

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

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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4:52am

Wed November 2, 2011
Law

Court To Decide If Texas Voting Maps Discriminate

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

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

Joe Raedle Getty Images

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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4:52am

Tue November 1, 2011
Law

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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2:59pm

Fri October 28, 2011
The Two-Way

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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3:54am

Wed October 26, 2011
Law

As It Turns 10, Patriot Act Remains Controversial

Originally published on Wed October 26, 2011 10:27 am

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

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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9:59am

Mon October 24, 2011
Law

Big Fight Brewing In Senate Over Defense Policy Bill

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 6:06 pm

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

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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2:01pm

Tue October 18, 2011
Law

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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9:04am

Tue October 18, 2011
The Two-Way

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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