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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Some members of Congress are calling for a more humane prison system. They're proposing a ban on solitary confinement for certain prisoners - among them, juveniles, pregnant women, and the mentally ill. Here's Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today.

The leader of an influential Justice Department office that offers legal advice on surveillance, drones and other issues at the center of security and executive power quietly left government before Christmas.

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The state of New York is taking a step toward a more humane prison system. Prison officials reached a landmark agreement today to limit the use of solitary confinement. The deal prohibits the use of extreme isolation to discipline under-age prisoners. It also offers new protections for pregnant women and for the disabled.

With us to talk about the deal is NPR's Carrie Johnson. Hi.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

The second-in-command at the Justice Department met Tuesday with defense lawyers and interest groups to identify the cases of worthy prisoners who could qualify for clemency.

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Attorney General Eric Holder called on 11 states to repeal "counterproductive" laws that bar convicted felons from "the single most basic right of American citizenship-the right to vote."

In a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University law school, Holder used his bully pulpit to note that 5.8 million people are prohibited from voting because of current or former felony convictions, including 1-in-5 black adults in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.

Attorney General Eric Holder has for the first time directed Justice Department employees to give same-sex married couples "full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent under the law," a move with far-ranging consequences for how such couples are treated in federal courtrooms and proceedings.

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President Obama's plan to bypass roadblocks in Congress and govern through executive order isn't going over well on Capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers are demanding to see the legal justification for some of the president's decisions on healthcare and the minimum wage. NPR's Carrie Johnson has that story.

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An independent panel created after the 9/11 attacks says bulk collection of billions of American phone records violates the letter and the spirit of the law.

The new report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board undercuts the foundation of the National Security Agency's long-running phone metadata program, and suggests it conflicts with plain language in the Patriot Act and other laws on the books.

NPR obtained a copy of the report, which will be discussed and voted on Thursday at an open board meeting.

What does it mean when lawmakers as different as Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall and New York Republican Rep. Peter King offer praise for the president's long-awaited speech on surveillance reforms?

Mostly that resolution to the biggest controversies after leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been put off — or pushed to working groups in the executive branch and the lawmakers themselves.

Still, the president's NSA reforms speech Friday offered a revealing look into the nation's phone data collection program and the direction of the surveillance policy debate.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers took the first step Thursday to patch a gaping hole in the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court eviscerated a key part of the law that allowed for federal oversight of states with a history of ballot box discrimination.

Lawyers for a young Portland man convicted of trying to blow up a Christmas tree ceremony are asking a judge to order the Justice Department to open its files and share "facts and circumstances" of electronic surveillance that prosecutors disclosed only months after his conviction.

FBI Director Jim Comey says he's "confused" by reports that characterize NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a "whistleblower" or a "hero" because, he says, all three branches of America's government have approved the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, one of the most important revelations in Snowden's cascade of leaks.

"I see the government operating the way the founders intended," Comey said, "so I have trouble applying the whistleblower label to someone who basically disagrees with the way our government is structured and operates."

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In other Senate business, the Judiciary Committee today considers President Obama's nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. That nomination could not have come at a more challenging time. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Now, government lawyers are trying to find another way to protect minorities at the ballot box. But NPR's Carrie Johnson reports the president's nominee could get bogged down in something else - battles over his record.

More than 40 years ago, on the evening of March 8, 1971, a group of burglars carried out an audacious plan. They pried open the door of an FBI office in Pennsylvania and stole files about the bureau's surveillance of anti-war groups and civil rights organizations.

Hundreds of agents tried to identify the culprits, but the crime went unsolved. Until now.

For more than a year, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA have been engaged in a tug of war over the release of the so-called torture report.

Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, says the $40 million, 6,000-page report demonstrates that CIA treatment of detainees was all but useless in terms of gathering actionable intelligence.

For its part, the CIA says the classified committee report contains significant errors and that no one at the agency was interviewed by Senate investigators.

A federal judge in Washington says the National Security Agency's program for bulk phone record collection violates Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy.

The ruling (pdf), however, has been stayed pending a likely appeal.

Judge Richard Leon says the sweeping NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

FBI agents across the country have been among the most vocal opponents of the spending cuts triggered by sequestration, warning about everything from having to abandon surveillance work to a lack of gas money.

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A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.

And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.

President Obama has made it a priority to choose federal judges who are diverse in terms of race or gender. But for the most part, he's avoided controversy for those lifetime appointments.

That's why the nomination of a Missouri lawyer named Ronnie White has raised the eyebrows of experts who've been around Washington for a while. Old hands remember that White was rejected for a federal judgeship back in 1999 after a party line vote by Senate Republicans.

Now, in what experts say could be an unprecedented step, he's getting another chance.

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OK. So federal judges, in secret, have blasted the National Security Agency for years, for violating rules governing U.S. surveillance programs. Then the judges have gone ahead and approved those programs anyway. We know this because of leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and from documents released by the government. They have revealed new information about how the secret court works. NPR's Carrie Johnson has this report on whether it is possible for the court to control the NSA.

For the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, nothing seems to come easy.

The agency runs at a fraction of the size of its much larger law enforcement counterparts. Under pressure from gun rights groups, it operated without a Senate-confirmed leader for seven years. And its new leader, B. Todd Jones, only narrowly averted a congressional roadblock to win confirmation this summer after serving more than two years as an interim leader.

Technology helps police solve crimes every day. But some innovations can also present new public safety concerns — and such is the case with guns built using 3-D printers.

It has been four months since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The ruling paved the way for thousands of same-sex married couples to receive federal benefits, and a special group of government lawyers has been working to make that happen.

The Justice Department is wrestling with how to disclose to criminal defendants that some evidence against them may have come from a secret electronic surveillance program.

A senior government official told NPR that prosecutors have identified a criminal case in which they will soon tell defense lawyers that they used secret intercepts to help build the prosecution.

The decision to share the fruits of electronic monitoring under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act has been the source of an internal debate within the department for weeks.

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Prominent members of the legal community are pressuring the Obama administration to do more to ensure that poor criminal defendants have access to a lawyer, a situation that Attorney General Eric Holder has already likened to a national crisis.

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