Last week the Senate amended the National Defense Authorization Act to ban the use of torture by any agency of the federal government. The act would codify a ban already instituted through an executive order issued by President Obama, which limits interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army Field Manual. It follows the report on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program issued by Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last December.

This legislation is short-sighted. It unnecessarily limits the president's power to defend this country in times of extreme threat.

As an FBI agent, I served about 20 months in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside CIA officers who were responsible for capturing and interrogating al Qaeda senior leadership. Those interrogators were patriots, operating at the direction of their superiors, involved in actions that they believed to be both legal and necessary to protect the homeland.

I am concerned that we have forgotten the feelings that we had in the year or two immediately following the attacks of 9/11. It is important, I think, to reflect on those times and those who were involved in fighting terrorism.

Place yourself in their shoes in March of 2003. With memories of the 9/11 atrocity still fresh, the battle in Afghanistan rages on. Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants issue fatwa after fatwa, urging their radical brethren around the world to strike back at the United States.

Let's say you are a member of the U.S. intelligence community, privy to intelligence reports from sources all over the world. You know with great certainty that a spectacular terrorist attack is coming, but you don't necessarily know when or where. And you and your colleagues take for granted that there are sleeper cells embedded in the U.S. waiting for the go-ahead from al Qaeda.

Your job is to extract information directly related to impending attacks on the U.S. from detainees who are high-ranking members of al Qaeda or the Taliban. It is your job to obtain information that will help prevent those attacks and save the lives of thousands of Americans.

If you fail, everyone will be watching horrific news accounts of the next attack. You will see the faces of the spouses, the parents and the children who will never see their loved ones again. You will face the wrath of a nation that doesn't understand why those it pays to protect it, failed yet again.

With this in mind, you are about to interrogate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11 and chief of operations for al Qaeda, the one man sure to know the group's operational plans.

You look at his hands, whose unique bulging veins you have seen before in a video. Those hands cut off the head of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered in Karachi, Pakistan, a little more than a year ago.

You have questions, the most important of which all start with how. How is the next attack coming? How long do we have to stop it? And, at the top of the list, how do I get this man to tell me about it?

That is the position that the interrogators from the U.S. intelligence community found themselves in during those first few years in the war against terror. We can argue about whether techniques used during the first five years of the global War on Terror constituted torture, but there is a bigger question. If a human being possesses information about an imminent attack that is likely to kill thousands of innocent civilians, to what extent should we go to obtain that information?

This question cannot be considered in a vacuum. It is absolutely necessary to consider the circumstances surrounding the decisions related to those interrogation techniques.

This is not just a question of waterboarding or torture. It is a question of protecting our citizens, our freedoms and our way of life. The primary responsibility of government is to protect of its citizens.

President Bush has talked about his decision to allow enhanced interrogation techniques. He said that he was told that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had information about imminent threats. He was told of the techniques interrogators would use to extract that information. Bush said that he told his people, "Find out what he knows."

It was a difficult decision in a time of war. It was a decision based upon the certain belief that thousands of Americans were at risk. It was the right decision. It is wrong to take that decision out of the hands of our president and limit his or her ability to protect this nation from an imminent threat. We elect our leaders to make decisions based upon the best information available to them.

To forever remove, by statute, arrows from the president's quiver of defense leaves us vulnerable. With a very real increase in the terrorist threat represented by the Islamic State and others, this is not a time to be weakening our ability to respond.

Jim Davis, a 26-year veteran of the FBI, is a former homeland security advisor to Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety. He is currently a principal in Public Safety Ventures, LLC, a Longmont, Colorado, based venture capital firm focused on public safety technology. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.