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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

In the days since a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., people have been on the streets to register their outrage.

But the police response to those protests has stoked nearly as much anger as the shooting did.

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Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit

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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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.

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.

The Justice Department says its case against a man accused in the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, is unusually complex and involves "novel questions of fact and law."



Here's a little-noticed fact about the death penalty. We've heard a big debate about how to execute people - lethal injection, electric chair, firing squad. That debate obscures a little-noticed fact - the number of people executed by any method is way down in the United States in recent years. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been covering this story. She's in our studios. Hi, Carrie.


INSKEEP: How far down?

U.S. strategy that relies on armed drones to kill terrorism suspects overseas "rests on questionable assumptions and risks increasing instability and escalating costs," according to a year-long study by a group of prominent military, intelligence and foreign policy experts.

One year ago, the Supreme Court threw out a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The law gave the federal government a kind of veto power over voting arrangements in states with a history of discrimination. Now, without those protections, civil rights activists say many states are moving polling places and enacting laws that disproportionately hurt minorities.



Whistle-blowers at U.S. Customs and Border Protection say employees there are abusing an overtime program designed for law enforcement emergencies. A federal watchdog says even desk workers in the agency have been claiming routine overtime every day and that is costing taxpayers $40 million a year. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.



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FBI Director Jim Comey brushed back a dark curtain last Thursday morning and emerged to greet his audience, Tonight Show style.

"I feel like a talk show host," Comey told a group of new recruits, the first hired on his watch since he joined the FBI nine months ago.

The clock is ticking on a decade-long effort to prevent sexual violence inside American prisons. In a recent survey, the vast majority of states said they will try to comply with federal rules. But several others, led by Texas, have protested to the Justice Department.

Jan Lastocy served 15 months in a Michigan prison for attempted embezzlement — her first brush with the law. The assaults began when a new corrections officer showed up at the warehouse where she had been assigned to work as a secretary.

The U.S. has devoted billions of dollars to fighting terrorism overseas in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Justice Department is increasingly warning about the danger posed by radicals on American soil, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants prosecutors and FBI agents to devote more attention to the threat.

Nearly two decades ago, after the Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people, the Justice Department launched a group to fight domestic terrorism.

The House of Representatives has voted to prohibit the Justice Department from hiring more attorneys to deal with thousands of backlogged clemency petitions in a bid to block one of the Obama administration's top criminal justice priorities.



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And I'm Melissa block. More than 65 million Americans have some kind of rap sheet. That's more than one in four adults. Criminal records follow people for the rest of their lives, and those black marks can hurt chances for housing and employment. Well today a new report says it's time to start thinking about forgiveness. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has the story.

Attorney General Eric Holder took his case for overhauling the criminal justice system to an unlikely location on Wednesday — a closed-door conference of prosecutors, who were meeting at their national training center in Columbia, South Carolina.

According to a person familiar with Holder's unpublicized remarks, Holder urged an audience of criminal division chiefs from U.S. Attorney's offices to support Smart on Crime initiatives that would reduce some drug sentences and to open up the clemency process to hundreds of inmates with clean records in prison.



The ability to monitor remotely is one hallmark of the post 9/11 world. Another is the ability to kill remotely. It's what the drone has made possible. But now the practice known as targeted killing may become harder to veil in secrecy. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: One year ago in that speech at the National Defense University, President Obama defended his use of drones as legal and effective. But he also acknowledged the practice raises moral questions.

Senior Justice Department officials have quietly notified U.S. attorneys and federal agents that they're establishing "a presumption" that agents will electronically record statements made by individuals in their custody.

In a memo obtained by NPR, Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole strongly encourages agents to videotape suspects in custody before they appear in front of a judge or magistrate on federal charges. The memo says FBI special agents in charge of field offices or U.S. attorneys can override the policy if they have good cause to set it aside.

The Senate will consider a judicial nominee who wrote legal advice approving drone strikes against Americans overseas. Critics question executive branch authority to execute citizens without trial.



Sexual assaults are now reported more often, but the Department of Justice says non-reporting still remains the rule. In fact, the DOJ says, only one in three victims reports the crime to police. Even fewer receive any social services. A new study finds that a lack of money and training often complicates the problem. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has more.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: After Emma Wagner was assaulted by a stranger last year, her first reaction was to hunker down, afraid of what would happen next.

Harvard law professor David Barron is under fire for signing memos that allowed the U.S. to kill a U.S. citizen overseas in a drone strike. Those blocking his nomination want the documents released.

FBI Director James Comey says the flow of Western fighters into Syria — and the prospect they'll return home radicalized — represents one of his biggest day-to-day concerns.