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Where is Cheney?

President Bush, meets with CIA Director George Tenet, Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the Oval Office on Sunday, October 7, 2001.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a familiar, and now rare snapshot of happenings at the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney appears with the president and some of his top advisers for a major event.

It is an image from a few moments after President Bush announced the first strikes on Afghanistan on Sunday. Moments later, security personnel whisked away the vice president, and he has not returned to the White House since.

His notable absence is part of the "continuation of government protocols"-- which sometimes includes keeping the president and vice president at separate locations. The tactic speaks volumes about the extraordinary security precautions that were implemented in the month since the September 11 attacks.

CNN's John King reports on the security measures concerning the U.S. vice president following September 11 attacks (October 10)

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"The vice president remains at a secure location where he is fully and completely informed of all events and is participating," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Although not at the White House, Cheney speaks with the president several times a day, participates in national security meetings through a secure video conference link and makes calls to world leaders and members of Congress.

Since Bush's inauguration, he has been the president's top lieutenant, a key player in relations with Congress and the architect of the administration's energy plan.

The president was in Florida when the attacks began. Cheney was at the White House and directed the initial response.

But once Bush returned, the Secret Service implemented the security protocols. So Cheney was absent from the president's speech to Congress and he cancelled plans to swear in the new director of homeland security. Meanwhile, the president was urging Americans to return to their routines.

"Where he is placed is a matter of professional decision by the Secret Service and others and something that is properly in their hands and not in my hands," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Whatever decision is necessary for his and the nation's safety, I'm for."

Aides describe the vice president as being in relatively good humor. Occasionally he complains about the food and the disruption to his routine.

Bush and Cheney have been discussing a more normal routine, including Cheney's return to the White House during the next few days. Meanwhile, when aides tell the vice president that people are looking for him, his stock answer, sometimes delivered with a smile, is "Don't tell them where I am."

From John King, CNN Senior White House correspondent


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