Career CIA agents now have good reason to fear that Holder's -- and now the president's -- special prosecutor, John H. Durham, will be coming after them with both guns blazing and maybe other former top officials in the Bush administration.
"Once Durham starts digging," the Washington Post reported this week, "... the veteran prosecutor could uncover evidence that leads him higher up the chain of command in an inquiry that grows broader than what the Justice Department outlined Monday."
The dangerous precedent this sets is contrary to Obama's oft-repeated intention to focus on the future, not the past. Instead, his administration is now intent on prosecuting public officials who acted at the time under legal opinions cleared by the Justice Department.
Administration officials say the president is sensitive to the damaging impact that a criminal investigation could have on the CIA and has drawn a tenuous line that they describe as a "balancing act."
But through information gathered from high-value terrorist prisoners during CIA interrogations, we know that our enemies are plotting to attack again and kill as many Americans as they can. This isn't a time for a nuanced "balancing act." It is a time to send a message to those who would do us harm that we are using all of the tools, methods and weapons at our command to protect our national security.
That was the clear, unmistakable message President Bush sent to our enemies, and no one can quarrel with the fact that the policies, programs and actions he implemented successfully defended us for eight years.
But that is not the message the Obama administration is sending as batteries of lawyers are being sent in to defend terrorist detainees, some of whom who are either being read their Miranda rights or sent back to their homelands where many have resumed their terrorist lives.
Indeed, instead of stepping up the war on terrorism, his administration seems to be declaring war on America's intelligence apparatus with plans to mount a criminal investigation against a frontline national-security agency.
"It doesn't appear to be a serious move" to combat terrorism, Cheney said Sunday on Fox News. "It's a direct slap at the CIA."
It is also another egregious example of this administration's misguided retreat in a war where failure is not an option.