There was a surprising revelation Monday afternoon when NASA Ames Research Station telemetry succeeded in reestablishing radio contact with the vice president on the little-known world astronomers are now calling "Planet Cheney"....
VICE PRESIDENT: OFFICE OF SPECIAL PLANS "HERE WITH ME"
By Jack Kus
February 3, 2004
Vice President Richard (Dick) B. Cheney said this evening that the Pentagon's notorious Office of Special Plans, thought to have been disbanded, is in fact on "Planet Cheney."
"Don posted the entire Special Plans group out here," said Mr. Cheney, referring to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "Doug Feith -- they're all here with me. We're hard at work. We make a fine team."
The discovery of Mr. Cheney and several Secret Service agents by the unmanned space probe Anitinae made headlines late last week. Since then, NASA scientists have been calling the little-known world by a new name: "Planet Cheney." But communication has been intermittent, because of intense solar activity. The sun is currently at the height of its 13-year sunspot cycle.
Late Monday afternoon, telemetry of the NASA Ames Research Station at Moffett Field, CA, aided by computers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, succeeded in reestablishing radio contact with Planet Cheney.
The vice president said that national security concerns had dictated the decision to place a branch of the Office of the Vice President as well as the entire Office of Special Plans in a secure location, "out of harm's way."
"The president advised me to find a site safe from terror. This place fills the bill. Pending our review of the reliability of our intelligence services, it's prudent for us to be based here. We're living in a different world since September 11 -- in our case, literally," Mr. Cheney said. "Though at times it's not that different from staying in Crawford, to tell the truth."
"Also, the hunting's not bad," he noted. When first located by NASA's infrared dectectors on Anitinae's roving robot explorer, the vice president and a Secret Service agent were hidden in a duck blind.
Mr. Cheney's voice was clear, despite some static. "There are also COG concerns," he said, using an acronym standing for Continuity of Government. "The American people need to feel assured that the executive branch will function, will endure, no matter what happens."
Should the president die or resign, under the 25th Amendment "the Vice-President shall become President," Mr. Cheney noted. The fourth section of that amendment provides that whenever the vice president and a majority of the cabinet say that the president is unable to do the job, the vice president becomes "Acting President." "What you call 'Planet Cheney' could then become an extraterrestrial Western White House," he said.
"You know, it's funny that the Constitution uses the term 'Acting President,'" Mr. Cheney chuckled, his laugh crackling eerily across the instellar void. "Some people -- including most of the readers of that Paul O'Neill book -- would say that 'Acting President' should be George's title now."
"In fact, sometimes the president and I joke that I could make myself 'Acting President' with just a stroke of the pen," said Mr. Cheney. "I wonder what the president's title should be then?"
The vice president's mood seemed to change when he heard that three Knight Ridder journalists -- Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel, and Joseph L. Galloway -- reported Monday that "current and former U.S officials" blamed him for intelligence failures before the Iraq war. Mr. Cheney seemed non-plussed.
"Who are they? What are their names? No, not the reporters -- the ones who talked to them. Give me their names," he pressed. Told that the officials had spoken on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, he laughed again. "Don't worry. The Office of Special Plans isn't so busy that it can't spend an hour or two on this. But what I don't get is, why did they talk to the press? Don't they know there's a war--" But the signal had gone dead.
Technicians tried to reestablish communications with Planet Cheney, but solar flare activity prevented further contact this evening. NASA scientists said they were confident that the difficulty was only temporary.