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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3:01pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Law

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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4:51pm

Fri September 30, 2011
National Security

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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4:55am

Thu September 29, 2011
Law

'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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4:21pm

Mon September 19, 2011
The Two-Way

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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12:01am

Mon September 19, 2011
Law

Could Texas' Redistricting Leave Latinos Behind?

Originally published on Mon September 19, 2011 5:25 am

The Texas State Capitol is seen late Jan. 18, in Austin.
Eric Gay AP

Political experts are keeping a close eye on Texas because it will pick up four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives next year, thanks to a soaring Latino population. But civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department are signaling they may have some concerns about the redistricting process in Texas and whether it could put Latino voters at a disadvantage.

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11:05am

Tue September 13, 2011
The Two-Way

Report: Marshals Service Needs To Improve Its Handling Of Felons' Assets

Federal watchdogs say the U.S. Marshals Service needs to do a better job of valuing and selling assets tied to fraudsters and organized crime figures.

The Justice Department's inspector general has found poor oversight and problems with record keeping that could be costing taxpayers money.

The Marshals Service has managed investments, homes and jewelry tied to many prominent criminals over the past five years. The prominent felons include Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and organized crime figure James Galante.

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3:03pm

Wed September 7, 2011
Law

New ATF Chief Inherits Agency Fighting For Survival

Originally published on Wed September 7, 2011 7:27 pm

B. Todd Jones, the top federal prosecutor in Minnesota, speaks during a press conference with Attorney General Eric Holder last year. Jones has been tapped as acting chief of the troubled Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Brendan Smialowski Getty Images

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is fighting for its life. The agency is under pressure from Republicans in Congress after a botched gun-trafficking operation known as "Fast and Furious," and the scandal has already cost the ATF leader and a top prosecutor their jobs.

Now, the Obama administration is counting on a new leader, B. Todd Jones, to try to get the agency back on track. Jones spent years as a U.S. Marine, and he's got the direct approach to prove it.

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12:01am

Thu September 1, 2011
Law

Obama Takes Tougher Stance On Abortion Protesters

The Obama Justice Department has been taking a more aggressive approach against people who block access to abortion clinics, using a 1994 law to bring cases in greater numbers than its predecessor.

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12:36pm

Tue August 30, 2011
The Two-Way

Under Scrutiny For 'Fast And Furious,' ATF Announces New Leader

Justice Department officials announced Tuesday that the troubled Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has a new leader. Officials handpicked Minnesota's top federal prosecutor, B. Todd Jones, to serve as the bureau's acting director.

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12:01am

Tue August 30, 2011
Law

Immigrant Witness Says U.S. Reneged On Protection

Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, shown here in 2010, is one former Justice Department official supporting the case of an Albanian witness asking for government protection.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Ten years ago, an Albanian immigrant agreed to help the Justice Department build a case against a mobster accused of human smuggling. In exchange, he says, federal prosecutors promised him a green card and protection for his family. But the mobster fled the country and the informant, Ed Demiraj, says the U.S. government reneged on its commitment — with violent results.

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4:23pm

Thu August 18, 2011
Business

SEC Documents Destroyed, Employee Tells Congress

A staff member at the Securities and Exchange Commission has complained to Congress that thousands of investigative documents have been destroyed by the agency.

Longtime SEC staffer Darcy Flynn says some of those missing papers relate to huge investment banks under the spotlight for their role in the 2008 mortgage crisis.

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12:01am

Wed August 17, 2011
National Security

Alleged Arms Dealer's Past Debated Before Trial

A Russian businessman accused of being one of the world's most notorious arms dealers is due in a federal court in New York on Wednesday for an important pretrial hearing.

Law enforcement authorities have been chasing Viktor Bout for decades, tracking how he went from a little-known Soviet military officer in the 1980s to a multimillionaire who allegedly provided assault weapons to brutal regimes in Angola and the Congo in the late 1990s.

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12:01am

Tue August 16, 2011
Law

Cell Service Shutdown Raises Free Speech Questions

The shutdown of mobile phone service in Bay Area subway stations has got constitutional experts hitting the law books.

Authorities for Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, blocked wireless signals in certain stations on August 11 in an attempt to prevent protests opposing the July 3 shooting death of Charles Blair Hill by BART police. Police say Hill came at them with a knife.

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11:09am

Fri August 12, 2011
Law

The Quiet Revolution In The Death Penalty Debate

A shortage of a key drug for lethal injections has slowed the pace of executions.
Nate Jenkins AP

There are 58 people on federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind. But for now none appears likely to face the ultimate punishment, at least not on President Obama's watch.

The Justice Department is reviewing its lethal injection protocols because of a shortage of a key drug. While that study is underway, authorities have backed away from setting execution dates.

Over the last few years, a quiet revolution has overtaken the death penalty debate. Like many trends, this one started in the states and moved to the federal level, says death penalty expert David Bruck.

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4:57am

Thu August 4, 2011
Law

Obama Gets High Marks For Diversifying The Bench

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, shown with President Obama in this file photo, became the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice during the Obama administration, one of a number of judicial diversity milestones the White House has made.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

When it comes to this White House and judges, there's a string of firsts. The first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. The first openly gay man on a federal district court. And the first women nominees who are Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Obama administration officials say that's by design.

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12:02am

Tue July 26, 2011
The Two-Way

Report: ATF Guns Recovered At Mexican Crime Scenes

Weapons traced to a failed U.S. law enforcement operation that sought to take down violent Mexican drug cartels have been recovered at more than 48 different crime scenes in Mexico, including bloody kidnappings and gun battles that left more than a dozen Mexican police and cartel members dead last May, according to a new report by Republican congressional investigators.

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2:52pm

Thu July 21, 2011
Politics

Redistricting Cases Challenge The Voting Rights Act

The landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act has been the law of the land for nearly half a century, removing barriers for generations of black voters in the South. But one of its key provisions still sparks controversy.

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11:00am

Thu July 21, 2011
National Security

ATF Whistleblower Case Triggers Retaliation Inquiry

The Justice Department's Inspector General has opened an investigation into possible retaliation against a whistle-blowing agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to two people briefed on the inquiry.

Watchdogs are examining whether anyone at the Justice Department improperly released internal correspondence to try to smear ATF agent John Dodson, who told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month that he repeatedly warned supervisors about what he called a reckless law enforcement operation known as "Fast and Furious."

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3:00pm

Wed July 20, 2011
World

FBI: Pakistan Spent Millions To Influence U.S. Politics

The FBI has made public documents showing Pakistan's army and intelligence agency have spent millions in recent years trying to influence U.S. policy, in part by donating to political candidates.

12:01am

Wed July 20, 2011
Law

Senate Panel To Consider End Of Gay Marriage Ban

There has been a lot for supporters of gay marriage to celebrate this year, including a new law that permits same-sex nuptials in New York.

Back in February, the Justice Department said it would no longer defend the federal law that restricts marriage to heterosexual couples, citing doubts about its constitutionality. This week, the White House said President Obama wants to overturn the law. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill that would do that and — for the first time — give federal benefits to same-sex couples who marry.

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11:54am

Tue July 12, 2011
News

Obama Cracks Down On Medical Marijuana

Ryan Cook reaches for a jar of medical marijuana at one of his clinics in Denver, Colo. on June 24.
Ed Andrieski AP

In many ways, things have been looking up for supporters of medical marijuana. Opinion polls now suggest that the American public is swinging behind the idea — and it's already legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia. But the Obama administration has been taking a very different view lately.

Marijuana has been cropping up all over the country, becoming legal for medical use in places like Montana and Colorado, where the drug's so available that it became a target on Saturday Night Live this year.

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3:58pm

Mon July 11, 2011
The Two-Way

Federal Authorities To Collect More Data On Gun Buyers Along Border

The Obama White House has cleared the way for federal authorities to get more information on gun purchases along the southwest border.

Dealers who sell multiple semi-automatic weapons to the same person in a short period of time must report the sales to federal authorities.

The new rule will apply in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas — states where illegal gun running from the U.S. to Mexico is rampant — and comes as gun trafficking along the border gets scrutiny from Congress.

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2:01pm

Wed July 6, 2011
National Security

Terrorism Case Re-Ignites National Security Debate

Photo reviewed by US military officials shows Camp VI entrance in Guantanamo where 70 prisoners were detained on Guantanamo October 2010.
AFP/Getty Images

Somali man Ahmed Warsame was picked up in the Gulf and interrogated by intelligence officials on a U.S. Navy vessel for two months before law enforcement agents came in to question him.

The FBI flew him to New York Monday, where he'll face a civilian trial on conspiracy and weapons charges that could send him to prison for life.

But the allegations against Warsame are nowhere near as important as what his case says about the Obama administration and the politics of national security.

First, the politics.

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1:05pm

Wed July 6, 2011
The Two-Way

ATF Chief Tells Congress What He Knows About 'Fast And Furious'

Key lawmakers in Congress are warning the Justice Department not to retaliate against whistle-blowers and leaders at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. They're reaching out only days after the ATF leader met with congressional investigators to talk about a gun trafficking scandal.

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12:01am

Tue July 5, 2011
Law

A Murder, 7 Convictions And Many Question Marks

In 1985, Chris Turner was convicted of the murder of Catherine Fuller. After spending decades in prison, Turner is now out on parole; he maintains his innocence. He is shown here in his childhood neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C., about 100 yards away from what was Fuller's home.
Amanda Steen NPR

In the fall of 1984, in a rain-soaked alley in Washington, D.C., a street vendor found a tiny woman lying dead on the floor of a garage.

She was Catherine Fuller, a mother of six, who left home to run a quick errand and never came back. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and killed all within sight of a busy public street.

The murder horrified and frightened the city. Over the next few months, police arrested 17 people in connection with the crime.

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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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