Terrorist rights supporters have conducted an extensive campaign to cripple the CIA.Their efforts will get a big boost when, as reported, Attorney General Eric Holder names a special prosecutor to investigate supposed abuses during prisoner interrogations. The Obama administration is full of bad ideas, but this is by far one of the stupidest and most dangerous.
Actions taken by the CIA should by their very nature be kept secret, particularly methods used to interrogate prisoners, the identity of operatives, and the details of operations. Making such information public automatically diminishes the CIA, limits its flexibility, and constrains future operations. Digging up past actions and looking for violations that can be prosecuted is pointless and counterproductive. CIA operatives who violate agency rules should be dealt with within the organization, by whatever administrative punishment is appropriate. If the government at large believes that the agency is unresponsive and unwilling to police its own, the CIA leadership should be held responsible. Having an outside agency such as the Justice Department investigate individual CIA operatives strikes at the heart of the agency's function as a secret intelligence organization, destroys its cohesion and status, and inhibits current & future intelligence gathering.
The CIA and other spy agencies exist in large part in order to break laws. Actions such as eavesdropping, fraud, blackmail, extortion, forgery, sabotage, bribery, soliciting treason, kidnapping, assassination and many othes tend to be illegal. This is one of the main reasons that the CIA's actions within the U.S. are tightly restricted. When operating abroad, the CIA has & needs much wider latitude because of its very nature. It is not the military, or a law enforcement body. It's an intelligence agency. If it's chained down with legal restrictions, with operatives who need to check with a lawyer before they can do anything, it will become more or less useless.
It is possible that President Obama will try to distance himself from his Justice Department's actions, by pretending that Holder has the sole authority to make such a decision. This is of course nonsense, since Holder works for Obama. The president could shut down any investigation, if necessary by firing the attorney general -- which is exactly what he should do.