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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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When Charles Ramsey talked with a 911 operator about the woman he'd found, the operator had this question.

(SOUNDBITE OF 911 CALL)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Can you ask her if she needs an ambulance?

CHARLES RAMSEY: You need an ambulance or what? She needs everything. She's in a panic. I bet she's been kidnapped, so you know, put yourself in her shoes.

INSKEEP: Put yourself in her shoes.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports law enforcement is trying to do just that.

It's one of the smallest law enforcement agencies in the federal government, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sure had a busy couple of weeks.

Dozens of its agents raced to Boston, where they analyzed bombs left near the finish line of the marathon. Others went south to Texas, where a fertilizer plant exploded under mysterious circumstances. Members of the ATF's national response team are still on the scene in tiny West, Texas, sifting through rubble at the blast site, near a crater that's 93 feet wide.

Footage from surveillance cameras along the Boston Marathon route gave the FBI early clues about the bombing suspects. And prosecutors say they'll use some of those images to try to prove their criminal case against 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But the proliferation of cameras in America's big cities is raising some tricky questions about the balance between security and privacy.

It was pictures of two brothers taken by a camera outside the Lord & Taylor department store that provided the first glimpse of the men who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon.

President Obama's nominee to lead the Labor Department has been one of the most aggressive advocates for civil rights in decades. Tom Perez prosecuted a record number of hate crimes cases and extracted huge settlements from banks that overcharged minorities for home loans.

But some Republican lawmakers say those same qualities give them pause about voting to confirm Perez as a Cabinet member.

'Making A Huge Difference'

Steven Nolder joined the federal public defender's office when it opened in Columbus, Ohio, nearly 18 years ago. Nolder handled his share of noteworthy cases, including the first federal death penalty trial in the district and the indictment of a former NFL quarterback embroiled in a ticket fraud scheme.

Lately, Nolder says, his professional world has turned upside down.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is sometimes called the second most important court in the country, regularly delivering the final word on major environmental, labor and national security cases.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has a whopping four vacancies, the most in the nation, including one opening that dates all the way back to 2005, when John Roberts moved to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Inside the courtroom, the debate over California's gay marriage ban was joined with sharp questions and a splash of humor. But where will all lead is still unknown. As NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, expectations for a sweeping and decisive ruling may be overblown.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Chief Justice John Roberts set the tone in the opening moments. Almost immediately, he pressed the lawyer defending California's gay marriage ban on the most basic of points.

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NPR's business news starts with a new labor secretary.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: President Obama has chosen justice department lawyer Thomas Perez for the post. Perez is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. He ran the labor department in his home state of Maryland and he will add a high profile Latino voice to the cabinet. But, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, his nomination is not without controversy.

President Obama minced no words when he talked about how the looming budget cuts known as sequestration could hurt the Justice Department.

"FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go," Obama said.

Starting late Friday, if Congress and the White House can't come to an agreement, the Justice Department will face $1.6 billion in cuts — about 9 percent of its budget. Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of state law enforcement officials who met in Washington this week that the situation looks ugly.

To understand what's happening with federal judge vacancies, consider this: The Senate voted Monday night to approve the nomination of Robert Bacharach to sit on the federal appeals court based in Denver.

Bacharach had won support from both Republican senators in his home state, and his nomination was approved unanimously. But he still waited more than 260 days for that vote.

The federal government once considered whistle-blowers a nuisance or worse. But over the past few years, that attitude has slowly started to change. More agencies have been reaching out for tips about fraud and abuse in and outside the government, even if digging through the stacks of complaints can present a challenge.

Think back to those movies in the 1970s — movies filled with heroic figures who risked it all to expose unsafe factories and police corruption, like New York cop Frank Serpico exposing his less-than-clean colleagues.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now to another remarkable fall from grace. Just three months after he resigned from Congress, Jesse Jackson, Jr. is preparing to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge. Prosecutors say the Illinois Democrat used $750,000 in campaign funds to buy a Rolex watch, mink coats, sports memorabilia. His wife Sandy will plead guilty to a tax change for failing to report that money to the IRS.

NPR's Carrie Johnson has the story.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

This is the time when we begin to find if the emotional power of the Newtown school shooting will translate into political change. People affected by mass shootings are now talking with state and federal lawmakers.

Susan Aaron's daughter escaped the shooting in Newtown after seeing her teacher and friends killed.

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The Gallup Organization made its name with landmark public opinion polls. The company surveyed everything from presidential elections to religious preferences, branding itself as the most trusted name in polling.

But lately, Gallup's name has been tarnished by a whistle-blower lawsuit and a suspension from winning federal contracts.

Gallup's roots stretch back to 1922, when its founder, George Gallup, was a college junior. He got a summer job interviewing people in St. Louis.

In a bombshell decision on the limits of executive power, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., has invalidated President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Legal experts say the court's reasoning upends decades of conventional wisdom and deals a big victory to Senate Republicans in an era of congressional gridlock.

Criticism is raining down on prosecutors in Massachusetts after the suicide of computer genius Aaron Swartz, who helped to develop innovations like RSS.

Swartz, 26, had been facing trial on 13 felony charges for allegedly breaking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology network and accessing millions of documents. Friends and family argue Swartz was the victim of Justice Department overreach. But legal experts say the case is more complicated than that.

Vice President Joe Biden is getting ready to make recommendations on how to reduce gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

But he says his task force is facing an unexpected obstacle: slim or outdated research on weapons.

Public health research dried up more than a decade ago after Congress restricted the use of some federal money to pay for those studies.

A Researcher Under Fire

Every year, banks handle tens of millions of transactions. Some of them involve drug money, or deals with companies doing secret business with countries like Iran and Syria, in defiance of trade sanctions.

But if the Justice Department has its way, banks will be forced to change — to spot illegal transactions and blow the whistle before any money changes hands.

Federal prosecutors have already collected more than $4.5 billion from some of the world's biggest financial institutions — banks charged with looking the other way when dirty money passed through their accounts.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has been called the law firm for black America. Once run by Thurgood Marshall, the group played a major role in desegregating public schools and fighting restrictions at the ballot box.

Now, the Legal Defense Fund is preparing for a new leader — just as the Supreme Court considers cases that could pare back on those gains.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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In a closed-door meeting Thursday, lawmakers will consider whether to approve a secret report that chronicles CIA detention and interrogation practices — including methods that critics have compared to torture.

That report — along with the release of a new movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden — is rekindling an old debate about whether those methods worked.

In a tug of war between President Obama and Congress, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., will hear arguments Wednesday on the legality of Obama's controversial recess appointments.

The White House says it was forced to install three new members of the National Labor Relations Board in January because of inaction by Senate Republicans. But those lawmakers argue the Senate wasn't really in a recess at the time.

The young Army private accused of passing diplomatic cables and war reports to the website WikiLeaks has made an unusual offer: Bradley Manning says he'll plead guilty to minor charges in the case. But he rejects the idea that he ever acted as a spy or helped America's enemies.

The Justice Department has a big decision to make.

Parts of new laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana will take effect early next month. The Obama administration needs to choose whether it will sue to stop the legislation or let those states go their own way — even though the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says the message he got from voters is unambiguous.

The FBI review of sensitive email messages between former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer-mistress Paula Broadwell has been raising big questions about Big Brother.

One of them: When can federal law enforcement review a person's private communications?

To Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, the real scandal over the Petraeus affair is not the extramarital sex, but the invasion of privacy.

In Washington scandals, the question is usually what the White House knew.

But in the case of former CIA Director David Petraeus, lawmakers are asking why President Obama did not know about a federal investigation that had found evidence Petraeus was having an affair.

About 300 people have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated in the U.S. thanks to DNA evidence. But overlooked in those stories are the accounts of jurors who unwittingly played a role in the injustice.

One of those stories is playing out in Washington, D.C., where two jurors who helped convict a teenager of murder in 1981 are now persuaded that they were wrong. They're dealing with their sense of responsibility by leading the fight to declare him legally innocent.

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