Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson is a Justice Correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the Newscasts and NPR.org.

While in this role, Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where 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.

Outside of her role at NPR, Johnson regularly moderates or appears on legal panels for the American Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others. She's talked about her work on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and other outlets.

Her work has been honored with 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.

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Law
5:11 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Judge Regrets Harsh Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The shocking death of basketball player Len Bias from a cocaine overdose in 1986 led Congress to pass tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes.
AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:08 pm

It seems long ago now, but in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, murders and robberies exploded as cocaine and other illegal drugs ravaged American cities.

Then came June 19, 1986, when the overdose of a college athlete sent the nation into shock just days after the NBA draft. Basketball star Len Bias could have been anybody's brother or son.

Congress swiftly responded by passing tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes. Those sentences, still in place, pack federal prisons to this day. More than half of the 219,000 federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.

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Law
4:38 am
Tue December 16, 2014

From Judges To Inmates, Finding The Human Casualties Of Mandatory Sentencing

NPR's series looks at the human toll of mandatory minimum prison sentences. The White House and the Justice Department have taken the unprecedented step of asking for candidates who might win early release from prison through presidential pardons or commutations in the final years of the Obama presidency.
Dan Henson iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 1:12 pm

The United States spends nearly $7 billion a year to operate a network of federal prisons that house more than 200,000 inmates. About half of them are incarcerated for drug crimes, a legacy of 1980s laws that prosecutors use to target not only kingpins but also low-level couriers and girlfriends. Multiple convictions for small-time offenses under those laws mean thousands of people are locked up for decades, or even the rest of their lives.

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National Security
5:11 am
Tue December 9, 2014

As Torture Report's Release Nears, CIA And Opponents Ready Responses

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:27 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Law
4:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Justice Department Moves To Further Rein In Racial Profiling

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 7:44 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
6:05 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Justice Department Plans New Cybercrime Team

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 1:17 pm

The leader of the Justice Department's criminal division is expected to announce today the creation of a new unit to prevent cybercrime and work alongside law enforcement, private sector companies and Congress.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell will debut the initiative at a daylong CyberCrime2020 symposium at Georgetown University's law school, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.

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Civil Rights
11:35 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Federal Ferguson Investigation Will Remain Independent, Holder Insists

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson, Mo., in August, where he met with elected and police officials and community members.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 8:15 am

This post was updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Attorney General Eric Holder says "far more must be done to create enduring trust" between police and communities they serve, even as his Justice Department continues to investigate possible discriminatory police actions in Ferguson, Mo.

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Missouri
10:59 am
Fri November 21, 2014

Holder Calls For Calm As Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Looms

Attorney General Eric Holder, pictured Sept. 4, says "durable relationships between police and their communities do not develop overnight."
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 3:49 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder is urging law enforcement officers and protesters to keep the peace as a grand jury decision nears about whether to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead a black 18-year-old who was unarmed in Ferguson, Mo.

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Law
5:02 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Brooklyn Prosecutor Could Be Nominated Attorney General In Coming Days

Loretta Lynch has handled or supervised a wide range of cases including New York police brutality against a Haitian immigrant, a $45 million cybertheft involving ATMs and the ongoing fraud prosecution of Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of New York.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 5:59 pm

Two sources familiar with the process tell NPR that Loretta Lynch, the top prosecutor in Brooklyn, could be nominated by President Obama as attorney general in the coming days.

Lynch is the lead federal prosecutor in a district that serves 8 million people. But outside of law enforcement circles, this daughter of a preacher is not widely known. Friends say that's because Lynch prefers to let her cases speak for themselves.

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It's All Politics
10:16 am
Tue November 4, 2014

New Attorney General Not Likely Until 2015

Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, speaks during an April news conference in New York. Lynch is now a leading favorite to replace Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 9:04 pm

Officials in the U.S. Senate and the executive branch increasingly expect the next attorney general to win confirmation in 2015, rather than pushing a candidate through during the lame-duck session of Congress later this year.

The current occupant of the job, Eric Holder, nodded to that likely possibility last week in a conversation at the Washington Ideas Forum in D.C., telling an interviewer he would probably stay until early February, marking six years as the country's top law enforcement officer.

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National Security
6:30 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Security Beefed Up At Federal Buildings Across U.S.

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 8:27 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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It's All Politics
3:40 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Labor Secretary Eyed As White House Searches To Replace Attorney General

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez is a top candidate to be the next attorney general, according to sources familiar with the process.
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 10, 2014 3:50 pm

NPR has learned Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is a top candidate to be the next attorney general. Three sources familiar with the process say the issue is on the desk of President Obama, who has yet to decide among a relatively short list of options.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in an email Friday that "we have no personnel announcements at this time."

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U.S.
10:16 am
Sun September 28, 2014

With The End In Sight, Holder Reflects On His Legacy

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, shown speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference on Friday, will be stepping down from his position as soon as a replacement is appointed.
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 3:21 pm

A day after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation, he made a long-planned visit to Scranton, Penn.

That's where he won his first big trial as a young public corruption prosecutor nearly 40 years ago. And he says coming to this federal courthouse now, returning to the site of his earliest legal success, makes sense.

"This, for me, was ... almost like completing a circle," he says. "I came here as a young and inexperienced trial lawyer and I came back as the head of the agency that I had just joined back in 1978."

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Law
11:11 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Victories For LGBT, Civil Rights Among Holder's Legacy

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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White House
10:40 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Eric Holder To Step Down As Attorney General

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a Sept. 4 news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 8:29 am

This post was last updated at 4:44 p.m. ET.

Eric Holder Jr., the nation's first black U.S. attorney general, will resign his post after a tumultuous tenure marked by civil rights advances, national security threats, reforms to the criminal justice system and 5 1/2 years of fights with Republicans in Congress.

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Law
3:32 am
Fri September 12, 2014

20 Years Later, Parts Of Major Crime Bill Viewed As Terrible Mistake

Surrounded by lawmakers, President Bill Clinton hugs then-Sen. Joseph Biden after signing the $30 billion crime bill at the White House on Sept. 13, 1994.
Dennis Cook AP

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:41 pm

Twenty years ago this week, in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed a crime bill. It was, in effect, a long-term experiment in various ways to fight crime.

The measure paid to put more cops on the beat, trained police and lawyers to investigate domestic violence, imposed tougher prison sentences and provided money for extra prisons.

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Law
4:36 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Holder Says Ferguson Probe Will Look For Source Of Police Mistrust

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department's civil rights division will launch a broad civil rights investigation in the Ferguson, Mo., police department.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 10:09 am

The Justice Department has launched a broad investigation into the actions of police in Ferguson, Mo. A white police officer there shot an unarmed 18-year-old black man last month, touching off protests and episodes of violence.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he's taking a closer look to get to the bottom of deep mistrust of local police.

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The Two-Way
2:34 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

No. 3 Justice Department Official To Depart For The Private Sector

Associate Attorney General Tony West, at podium, speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Aug. 21. West is preparing to announce he is leaving government for a job in the private sector.
Lauren Victoria Burke AP

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 3:36 pm

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

Associate Attorney General Tony West, the third in command at the U.S. Justice Department, is preparing to announce he will leave government for a job in the private sector, two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR.

In a statement, the Justice Department confirmed West's planned departure.

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Governing
4:42 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Legal Questions Loom As Obama Weighs Military Action In Syria

President Obama says he agrees that Congress should have buy-in on military intervention against the Islamic State.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 8:40 pm

The White House is working behind the scenes to develop a strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Syria, a strategy that could include airstrikes and other military action there. But there are already lots of questions in political and national security circles about the legal authority the Obama administration might use to justify those actions.

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress authorized the White House to use military force — broad authority to strike against al-Qaida.

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Law
3:47 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Former Border Protection Insider Alleges Corruption, Distortion In Agency

James Tomsheck poses in his office in Washington in June 2009. At the time, he was assistant commissioner for internal affairs with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 8:53 am

Two months ago, James Tomsheck was pushed out of his job as internal affairs chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

At the time, authorities criticized him for not doing enough to investigate abuse and corruption.

But now Tomsheck tells a very different story: about a culture that goes out of its way to evade legal restraints.

Use of force by law enforcement agents along the Southwest border has drawn attention and criticism recently, after reports that Border Patrol agents shot and killed unarmed migrants and faced no consequences.

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Missouri
3:41 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Holder Seeks To Soothe Nerves During Visit To Ferguson

Attorney General Eric Holder participates in a closed-door meeting Wednesday with students at St. Louis Community College, Florissant Valley.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 1:07 pm

The nation's top law enforcement officer traveled to Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday to wrap his arms around a community in pain.

Attorney General Eric Holder hugged community leaders, a highway patrol captain and the mother of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old killed by a police officer earlier this month.

From the moment he walked into a soul food restaurant in Ferguson, the attorney general found friends and began getting reports on the community's mood after days of protests and sporadic violence.

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Law
4:16 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

What Washington Can, And Can't, Do In Ferguson

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 6:18 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's All Politics
5:19 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Attorney General Holder: Ferguson Scenes Cannot Continue

Attorney General Eric Holder at a July 14 press conference. On Thursday, Holder outlined the federal response to recent events in Ferguson, Mo.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 7:59 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder says federal investigators have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson, Mo., even as he pledged new assistance from the Justice Department to quell "extreme displays of force" and militarization by heavily armed local police there.

"It is clear that the scenes playing out in the streets of Ferguson over the last several nights cannot continue," Holder said.

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Politics
3:49 am
Wed August 6, 2014

After Discrimination Finding, Jury's Out On Memphis Juvenile Courts

Juvenile wing of the Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana. In Memphis, the juvenile court system was criticized for inadequate defense of their clients and treating minority children more harshly.
Richard Ross Juvenile In Justice

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 10:55 am

For people connected to the Memphis juvenile courts, April 2012 is unforgettable. That's when federal investigators determined that the Shelby County juvenile court system discriminated against African-American defendants.

The Justice Department said the system punished black children more harshly than whites. In the most incendiary finding, investigators said the court detained black children and sent them to be tried in the adult system twice as often as whites.

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Law
4:09 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Coaches Help Released Inmates Step From The Cell Into A Job

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 7:31 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Law
4:28 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

By Putting Interrogations On Tape, FBI Opens Window Into Questioning

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 6:35 pm

Transcript

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia already record questioning of people in police custody. But federal law enforcement had long refused to take that step until this month. Mark Giuliano is the deputy director of the FBI - the highest ranking agent in the bureau.

MARK GIULIANO: So it used to be that we actually had to get permission to record. And now we're at the point where we actually have to get authority not to record.

JOHNSON: The world has changed, and Giuliano says the FBI is starting to change along with it.

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Law
4:40 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Unanimous Vote Could Mean Reduced Penalties For 46,000 Defendants

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 7:54 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now to a major decision that could bring big changes to as many as 46,000 prison inmates. Those are people convicted of drug crimes, and today, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to reduce prison sentences for drug defendants who are already behind bars. This would start next year. NPR justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson, has our story.

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Law
4:19 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

With A Rules Change For A Lever, Senate Ends Judge's 17-Year Wait

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 1:00 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Law
4:02 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Justice Dept. Declines To Step Into Dispute Between CIA And Senators

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 7:04 pm

The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a dispute over access to sensitive materials on enhanced interrogations. The power struggle relates to a long-running Senate probe over the mistreatment of detainees after Sept. 11.

The Two-Way
3:32 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

No Criminal Charges In Senate-CIA Spat, Justice Department Says

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein alleged in March that the CIA violated federal law by searching computers used by her staff. On Thursday, the Justice Department declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate panel.
Jim Lo Scalzo EPA/Landov

The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against anyone at the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee in a dispute over access to documents about the enhanced interrogation program the U.S. deployed against detainees after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Prosecutors notified the Senate panel Thursday of their decision, a muted end to a power struggle that had undermined relations between the intelligence community and its chief overseers on Capitol Hill.

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News
4:13 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

In Oslo, Attorney General Warns Syria May Be A Cradle Of Terrorism

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 6:13 pm

In a speech in Oslo, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged European partners to do more to find and disrupt plans of would-be terrorists who head to Syria — and, once trained, might return to the West.

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