By CHRISTOPHER NEWTON .c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The CIA must change its policy of not paying operatives with ties to terrorist groups when working to uncover schemes against America, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday.
Cheney suggested on NBC's ``Meet The Press'' show Sunday that the policy might be tossed in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center and an attack on the Pentagon.
``If you're only going to work with officially approved, certified good guys, you are not going to find out what the bad guys are doing,'' Cheney said. ``You have to have on payroll some very unsavory characters. This is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty, business. We have to operate in that arena.''
Cheney also said that CIA director George Tenet should not be used as a ``scapegoat'' in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
``I think George clearly should remain as director of the CIA. I think he and his people do good work,'' Cheney said.
Cheney said security in America's airports must be tightened. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta is forming a task force to make recommendations to him by Oct. 1.
``They needed boxcutters, knives, razorblades and an airline ticket and that is it,'' Cheney said. ``They, in effect, turned our own system against us.''
While the CIA had no prior knowledge of the attack last Tuesday, Cheney said the agency has thwarted other recent terrorist plots, ``often in ways we can never talk about.''
``But our intelligence is never going to 100 percent effective,'' Cheney said. ``The key is to go eliminate the terrorists.''
Other members of the Bush administration are also calling for strengthening the nation's ability to thwart terrorists.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Sunday that the administration would ask Congress for wider latitude in tapping the telephones and computer lines of suspected terrorists.
``In terms of wiretapping...its easier to get a wiretap against a drug dealer or someone who's involved in illegal gambling than it is against terrorists,'' Ashcroft said on ``Fox News Sunday.''
Ashcroft also says the nation needs better legal tools to identify and prosecute money laundering by terrorists.
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