Donald Lambro

The Justice Department's decision to investigate the interrogation methods used by the Bush administration's war on terrorism sent a chilling message to CIA agents that they could be prosecuted for protecting our country from another attack.

Despite President Obama's promise to CIA personnel earlier this year that he did not want to reopen the debate over aggressive-interrogation practices in the previous administration, Attorney General Eric Holder named a special prosecutor to go after agents who acted with the approval of the Bush Justice Department's legal rulings.

Holder not only overruled Obama -- who caved in to his attorney general and said it was his call -- he dismissed the bitter opposition of CIA Director Leon Panetta and even attorneys in his own department.

It was the latest move in a number of actions that have defanged the CIA and reduced its effectiveness in the war on terror, after eight years of foiling numerous plots that has kept our country safe.

Seven months into his presidency, Obama has moved to close down the Guantanamo Bay facility for prisoners in the war against terrorism. He has issued directives that have tied the hands of intelligence agents trying to discover terrorist plots against Americans before they occur. He has removed the CIA's authority for interrogation and placed it in the White House. He has undercut CIA chief Panetta, raising questions as to who is running the agency, Panetta or the White House's political agents.

His administration has even banned Bush's phrase, "war on terrorism," and in the past few months needlessly released top-secret intelligence documents that have given Al Qaeda and the Taliban terrorists a treasure-trove of information about interrogation policies and practices.

And now he has given in to Holder's plan to prosecute some of the CIA's best agents, breaking a solemn public pledge to the nation's chief intelligence agency that its agents would not be persecuted simply for doing their job.

"President Obama's decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security," said former Vice President Richard Cheney.

People who have talked to Panetta recently say his embattled agency is suffering from deep morale problems as agents wonder why the White House seems to be spending more time and effort investigating them than stepping up the war on terrorism.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.