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.

Over the past few years, authorities have arrested more than 200 gang members in an unexpected place: the tree-lined suburbs along the Hudson River in New York.

Drug traffickers with ties to the Bloods, the Latin Kings and other gangs have put down roots there. Authorities say they brought shootings and stabbings with them.

Middletown, N.Y., is 90 minutes northwest of the city. On West Main Street, you can find tidy brick buildings from the 1800s, a brew pub, and a restaurant that sells fresh mussels and escargot.

A Democratic Congressman has introduced legislation that would impose tough new penalties on people who lie when they buy guns.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.) says the bill, the Straw Purchaser Penalty Enhancement Act, would give federal agents new tools to crack down on the flow of weapons across the Southwest border into Mexico.

Nowadays, many episodes where people lie about the true identity of the purchaser of guns, or engage in straw purchases, never get prosecuted at all, Schiff says in an interview with NPR.

Federal prosecutors have charged five men with responsibility for some of the biggest computer hacks in the past few years. The FBI says the hackers penetrated the computer systems of businesses like Fox Broadcasting and Sony Pictures, stole confidential information and splashed it all over the Internet.

But what's most unusual about the case is how investigators cracked it — with the help of an insider who became a secret government informant.

The FBI is offering a $1 million reward for information leading directly to the safe return of one of its retired agents.

Robert Levinson disappeared five years ago this week on Kish Island, Iran. He worked at the FBI for 22 years before he retired, taking as a private detective. It was that job that sent him to Iran in March 2007, where he went missing.

It's one of the most serious actions the U.S. government could ever take: targeting one of its own citizens with lethal force.

Since last year, U.S. drones have killed three Americans overseas. But Attorney General Eric Holder says the ongoing fight against al-Qaida means those kinds of deadly strikes are now a way of life. And judging from the reaction to his national security speech at Northwestern University Law School on Monday, so is the hot debate over the legality of the U.S. drone program.

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke in Chicago on Monday on the legal rationales for targeting and killing Americans suspected of terrorism overseas. Carrie Johnson talks to Melissa Block.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull says he will apologize to President Obama and ask for a panel of judges to investigate his conduct after a Montana newspaper reported he had sent a racially inflammatory message using his courthouse email account last month.

The Great Falls Tribune reported the judge had forwarded the following message to six of his friends February 20:

In defiance of Congress, the Obama administration has issued new rules on how it will comply with a defense law mandating that many al-Qaida suspects be sent into military custody: It will issue waivers in many cases. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the trouble with waivers and the need for flexibility in dealing with suspects.

The top lawyer at the Pentagon offered a strong defense of the Obama administration's targeted killing program Wednesday, arguing the use of lethal force against the enemy is a "long-standing and long-legal practice."

In a speech at Yale University's Law School, Jeh Johnson said there's no real difference between high tech strikes against members of al-Qaida today and the U.S. military decision to target an airplane carrying the commander of the Japanese Navy in 1943.

The Republican lawmaker who has been leading a yearlong investigation into the failed gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious acknowledged Thursday that the probe has turned up no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder approved the idea.

Every year, federal judges sentence more than 80,000 criminals. Those punishments are supposed to be fair — and predictable. But seven years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court threw a wrench into the system by ruling that the guidelines that judges use to figure out a prison sentence are only suggestions.

The Justice Department's massive copyright case against the file-sharing website Megaupload.com had the Internet world hopping this week. But it also got lawyers talking, about the scope of a criminal investigation that spanned eight countries and the hard-nosed tactics that the government deployed.

An investigating officer has recommended that Army private Bradley Manning face court-martial on multiple criminal charges related to the downloading of nearly 1 million war logs and secret diplomatic cables. Manning is accused of taking the files and them passing them on to WikiLeaks.

If he does face a court martial and is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

President Obama acted within his legal authority to appoint Richard Cordray to lead the National Consumer Protection Bureau last week, during a period when the Senate was conducting "pro forma" holiday sessions, according to a memo released this morning by a key unit of the Justice Department.

Datchler / Flickr

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Charlie Polson
KBIA

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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The Javorac / Flickr

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.

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.

brody4 / flickr

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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