Execution of the classified "Continuity of Operations Plan" resulted not from the Cold War threat of intercontinental missiles, the scenario rehearsed for decades, but from heightened fears that the al Qaeda terrorist network might somehow obtain a portable nuclear weapon, according to three officials with first-hand knowledge. U.S. intelligence has no specific knowledge of such a weapon, they said, but the risk is thought great enough to justify the shadow government's disruption and expense.
Deployed "on the fly" in the first hours of turmoil on Sept. 11, one participant said, the shadow government has evolved into an indefinite precaution. For that reason, the high-ranking officials representing their departments have begun rotating in and out of the assignment at one of two fortified locations along the East Coast. Rotation is among several changes made in late October or early November, sources said, to the standing directive [Bush] inherited from a line of presidents reaching back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Known internally as the COG, for "continuity of government," the administration-in-waiting is an unannounced complement to the acknowledged absence of Vice President Cheney from Washington for much of the past five months. Cheney's survival ensures constitutional succession, one official said, but "he can't run the country by himself." With a core group of federal managers alongside him, Cheney -- or President Bush, if available -- has the means to give effect to his orders.
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