- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday said the United States will have to become "stiffer on immigration" and keep Pennsylvania Avenue closed to traffic in front of the White House because of ongoing terrorist dangers.
The vice president also defended his secretive existence for the first five days of U.S. attacks against Afghanistan, saying he and President Bush must limit their joint appearances from now on. He made the remarks during his first press interview in 26 days.
"We do have to change our way of doing things," Mr. Cheney told Jim Lehrer of PBS' "NewsHour."
"We're probably going to have to be stiffer on immigration and do a better job, for example, managing the [Immigration and Naturalization Service]," he said.
It was a dramatic reversal for the Bush administration, which had aggressively pushed to relax immigration laws prior to Sept. 11. Mr. Bush himself had made a priority of granting legal status to Mexicans who have entered the United States illegally.
Mr. Cheney, who previously had not opposed the reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, yesterday forcefully called for it to remain closed to automobile traffic.
"There's good reason why it's closed," he said. "It was closed because of the car-bomb threat, and it ought to stay closed.
"And now we had a big debate in this town about who's going to open up Pennsylvania Avenue," he added. "Well, Pennsylvania Avenue ought to stay closed because, as a fact, if somebody were to detonate a truck bomb in front of the White House, it would probably level the White House, and that is unacceptable."
The vice president said traffic must also remain restricted around the Capitol, which was believed to be a possible terrorism target.
"We've got to be willing to tolerate a procedure that puts a 40-block area around the Capitol Building that we're not going to allow trucks into for the time being," he said.
Mr. Cheney, who joined his boss in urging Americans to resume their normal lives as much as possible, nonetheless defended his five-day disappearance after American bombs started falling in Afghanistan.
"It's a reasonable precaution," he said. "Now we've reached the point where, especially with Washington targeted as it was on September 11 with the possibility that the White House or the Capitol or other facilities here could be targeted in a terrorist attack that generally it's not a good practice for the president and I to spend a lot of time together.
"We had already adopted before September 11 a practice that we never flew together; after the campaign we stopped that. I've never been on Air Force One since he was sworn in as president," he said.
"Now, we also generally avoid large public gatherings here in Washington, the two of us together," he said. "That becomes an enticing target, if you will, for the terrorists."
He added: "It's important from the standpoint of our responsibility to maintain the continuity of government to always see to it that nobody no adversary or enemy would have the capacity of, in effect, decapitating the federal government by taking out the president and the vice president and other senior management, senior leadership. So frequently we will separate."
Yesterday's interview was taped in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House, where Mr. Cheney maintains a ceremonial office in addition to his working office in the West Wing.

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