Obama Could Face Trouble Over CIA Investigation

Some think Holder's naming of a prosecutor will contaminate Obama's larger agenda.

By + More

The Obama administration has opened up a Pandora's box of trouble for itself by moving ahead with an investigation of controversial interrogation practices of suspected terrorists that were used during George W. Bush's administration. Attorney General Eric Holder named a special prosecutor to look into the allegations, but that won't be the end of it. Washington insiders of both parties predict that congressional Democrats will now feel emboldened to pursue their own investigations into what many Democrats consider torture, complete with hearings and angry recriminations. "You know that Congress will want to throw its oar into the water," says a former adviser to a GOP president and that, in the end, many people will be appalled by the probes. "Americans will consider this an effort to embarrass or punish people who were trying to protect us from those who were trying to hurt us. This won't come out well." He and other analysts predict that the hard feelings over the "torture investigations" will contaminate the debate in other areas, including healthcare, and undermine Obama's larger agenda.  

Obama could also catch grief from former Vice President Dick Cheney who friends say won't let go of the "enhanced interrogation" issue anytime soon. Cheney was the highest-ranking former official of the Bush administration to condemn this week's appointment by Holder of a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's harsh interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists. Cheney issued a statement saying that the investigation threatened to malign American intelligence forces and said the probe raised more questions about the Obama administration's ability to protect national security. Cheney's friends say he won't quit. Explains a former U.S. official who knows him well: "He is a firm believer that you have to go after the terrorists and use any means to defend the country."

But Cheney's boss isn't ready to enter the fray. Former advisers to George W. Bush say he is content to leave the defense of his policies to Cheney and others. "He knows that there's a time to let go," a Bush confidant told U.S. News. "And he believes it would be very unpresidential" to get into a fight with his successor.