Nancy Wyatt finished sorting through the stack of facsimiles that had been received overnight from the regional data centers and the overseas offices. While stepping through the door into the Executive Suite she decided to place the FAX from Tehran on the top of the ones she thought Mr. Perot would want to see. She set the facsimiles in the appropriate In Box on a shelf near Mr. Perot's computer workstation.
For a minute Nancy looked over the workstation, trying to be sure that everything was in order. She noticed that the terminal used by Mr. Perot for connecting to the mainframe was offline again. She re-initialized the connection routine and checked the ribbon of the Selectric that was built into the terminal. Just before turning away, she noticed that on the desk top next to the Datapoint computer was a magnetic storage diskette. She picked up the disk and was puzzled by what was written on the label: "Henry Perot" and "Rotc".
Usually Mr. Perot was exceedingly neat and orderly, never tending towards accumulating any clutter around his workstation. There was a distinct air of military discipline around him and Nancy wondered if he was involved somehow with Navy ROTC.
She heard Mr. Perot being greeted in the outer office pool and met him at the door as he entered his office. Nancy welcomed him with a cheerful, "Good day, Mr. Perot." In her heels, Nancy towered over her boss and she looked down on the top of his head.
Ross Perot paused and patted his pockets. He pulled a rumpled set of printed pages out of his suit coat pocket and handed the sheet of paper to Nancy. He looked up and into her eyes and asked, "How are you today, Nancy?"
For the thousandth time, Perot wondered about the propriety of having Nancy as his office assistant. She looked and sounded like she had been selected for the role by a Hollywood movie company's casting department. She had actually once been in the Miss Texas beauty pageant, but she was a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Perot prized her for her skills in managing his office automation initiative for EDS.
Nancy knew from long experience that Perot did not have a comfortable relationship with paper. There were many jokes around EDS about Perot and why he had gotten into the computer business. For most of the jokes the punch line was some variant of "so he would not have to use paper any more". While smoothing and trying to figure out what the papers he had handed her were she replied automatically, "I'm just fine, thank you." Finally she recognized the papers as being the weekly report from the Interoffice Communications Committee. She asked Perot, "Should I distribute this as usual?"
Perot was already headed across the large office towards his desk. He replied, "Yes, please." He reached his desk and looked through the list of phone calls he had received overnight. He asked, "Any important calls?"
Nancy replied, "No, not really," The way the company was now growing, it was truly amazing just how many people called to talk to Perot. Almost all of them could better be served by speaking to another employee of the company. She continued, "But there was a FAX marked 'URGENT' from the office in Iran." Perot stepped over to the shelves by his computer workstation and found the FAX from Iran. Nancy then remembered the floppy disk she had found. "Oh, and I found this disk, do you want me to file it?"
Perot frowned down at the FAX from Iran and for a minute he stood there reading, then he looked up. He asked, "Disk? What disk?" Nancy held up the disk with the blue label pointed towards him. He did not recognize the disk. Perot asked, "Where did you find it?"
"Right next to your computer...personal computer." Nancy still had trouble adjusting to the idea of a personal computer. While in school she had grown accustomed to using terminals to connect to mainframe computers, but the idea of a personal computer was something that she was adjusting to. Perot had planned the new headquarters building in anticipation of the day when all the staff would be equipped with their own personal computer and most of that new equipment was now on order. Nancy only had a vague idea of what Perot used his personal computer for. In some ways it seemed like a toy or a status symbol. She imagined that was why he had insisted on having it on display right behind his main office desk where visitors would be sure to see it. However, Nancy knew it was unfair to think that Perot was just playing some game, clearly his computer was for more than just show since Perot usually spent many hours each day working at the computer. Nancy often wondered what he might be doing in all the hours he spent using the computer, but it was a matter that he was not at all communicative about. She imagined he was testing and familiarizing himself with software that he might purchase and have the staff start to use.
Perot took the disk from Nancy and then strode back to the computer. Suddenly he seemed to recognize the disk. He lied and pretended that the disk was his, "Oh, yes. Thank you, I'm still using this..."
Nancy watched Perot insert the disk into one of the two disk drives that were attached to the Datapoint computer and she asked, "Do you need anything else, sir?"
Perot was deep in thought. He glanced up at Nancy and asked, "What?"
"Will there be anything else for now?"
"Oh, no. Thanks. Please give me a reminder before the department heads meeting." He was now totally involved with looking to see what files were on the mysterious disk and did not notice when Nancy left, closing the door behind her.
As the disk drive spun up to speed, the CRT attached to the Datapoint computer showed Perot that there was a track of data on the disk. He sat down in front of the CRT then sprang up and took off his jacket and tie, silently cursing the silliness of 20th century fashion. He noticed that his heart was racing and his hands were sweaty. Almost certainly this disk held a set of new instructions that had been sent to him from the future. It was now almost ten years since his arrival here in the past and he remembered that the time travel technicians had suggested that 10 years was about the soonest that it would be possible to insert more mass into this timeline after Perot's own arrival.
The question was: how to read the data on this disk? The operating system of the Datapoint computer was quite primitive and did not recognize the data as being in a conventional file format. Perot spent a few minutes running some standard data conversion routines, but none of them recognized the data on the disk.
He took the disk out of the drive and looked at the label. What might "Rot c" mean? He thought back to one of his training sessions before he was sent back into the past, a session at which some simple transposition ciphers were mentioned. He said, "Yes!"
Not trusting the primitive equipment of this age, he took the time to make a backup copy of the data on the floppy disk. He locked the original disk in his safe. Perot put one of his usual floppy disk labels on the new backup copy and marked it according to his usual method with the date, his initials and then he wrote "KRF backup" on the "contents" line on the label. He chuckled to himself. How long had it been since he had thought about KRF? "KRF" were the initials he had been given the day of his birth, now hundreds of years in the future...a future which his existence here in the past had doubtlessly replaced, creating a new timeline. For the past ten years he had lived as Perot and had fully adopted Perot's lifestyle and identity. For a moment he thought about the strange fate of the original Ross Perot, then shrugged and returned his attention to the disk and the need to keep focused on the future.
For a minute he wondered about the nature of new timeline that his presence here in the past had created. This newly arrived disk held information from people in a future who he had never known. The fact that they had sent the disk back through time to him meant that he would be successful in passing on his molecular memory device to the future. He shook his head in wonder...until now he had never really been convinced that his mission to deflect the path of time would succeed. He muttered, "I must be doing some things right."
When he had arrived in 1965 he carried a molecular memory device built into a bone in his hand. It had since been extracted and was now in a bank vault, awaiting the time when molecular memory technology was invented again. In the case of that particular artifact from the future, the nature of the memory storage device itself insured that nobody in these technologically primitive times could read the information from the future...or even recognize it as a memory storage device. But the mysterious floppy disk which had materialized in the office today was different. There was a very real risk that someone from this time might read a message from the future that had arrived on such a disk. Perot realized now that "Rot" almost certainly meant that the data on the disk was protected from casual reading by a rotation cipher. But which one? What did "c" mean? If he had been briefed on a "Rot c cipher" before leaving the future, he now had no memory of it.
Perot stood up and paced back and forth in front of the window of his office. Even if the data on the disk was encoded with a cipher, that was getting ahead of a more fundamental problem. Right now the only thing he knew was that the data was in a format that could be read by a Shugart disk drive, but all he had so far was a sequence of about a million bits...just a long list of zeros and ones. The people of the future who had sent him the disk would have made sure to record the disk in a format his equipment could read, but they would have also taken pains to be sure that only Perot could read their message. Perot tried to imagine the trick they might have used to prevent anyone from casually gaining access to a message from the future.
Perot pulled the Shugart disk drive manual off of the shelf and turned to the appendix that held a list of available line codes. He noticed that one was called CFM. He wondered: might a message coming from the future use Complete Frequency Modulation, CFM, and provide a hint by putting a "c" on the label? In order to find out, he had to load software for the CFM algorithm into the Datapoint computer from one of the data disks that came with the computer. Then after running the data from the "Rot c" disk through the CFM filter he noticed that there were exactly 65,536 bytes remaining, exactly 2 raised to the 16th bytes. He felt sure that such a round number in base two could not be a coincidence, but again, when interpreted according to any of the standard alphanumeric file formats, the data still failed to produced a recognizable text.
Perot quickly tried a few obvious possibilities. Maybe "c", as the third letter of the alphabet, meant to shift every alphanumeric character by three places. But shifts of three in either direction were no better....such rotations just produced new meaningless jumbles of characters on the screen. He again got up out of his chair. After ten minutes of pacing he realized that the was another way to interpret "c". Hexadecimal c was equal to 12 and within a minute he found that shifting the data by 12 positions, a rot-12 cipher, produced an English language text.
The text started with a list of section headings:
- Dick Cheney
- Ruhollah Khomeini
- Robert Cailliau
- Harold Koplow
The list continued past Koplow, but Perot only read the first few entries before Nancy spoke through the intercom, "Your meeting is in ten minutes."
Perot pushed the button on the intercom, "Thanks, I'm on my way." He shut off the Datapoint computer and headed for the conference room. He recognized the name "Ruhollah Khomeini" from his knowledge of Iran and he had met Harold Koplow and knew about his work on word processing. In fact, Perot had recently placed a large order for the new "Office Information System" Koplow had developed. But who were Dick Cheney and Robert Cailliau?
It was late afternoon before Perot could escape his managerial duties and return to the floppy disk. He quickly skimmed the contents of the disk and then carefully read the first dossier which included a detailed account of the life of Dick Cheney all the way through his time as Vice President more than 30 years in the future.
Perot's efforts here since 1965 had accomplished one of his major objectives: preventing the nuclear war of 1970. But his actions, while smashing President Johnson's crusade to escalate the Vietnam war, which eventually prevented the devastating nuclear attack by the USA on China and the USSR (and the more meager Soviet counter attack), had also created a reaction. Dangerous men now hungered for revenge against the communist Chinese and Soviets for the humiliation suffered by the USA in Vietnam.
Perot's thoughts were interrupted by Nancy on the intercom. "I'm getting ready to leave unless you need anything else."
Perot replied, "Just a few more things, Nancy. Have someone get me on the next flight to Washington. And I need to make two phone calls. First, get my wife. That might be tricky if she is still at my son's ball game. And get me a long distance line to New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh, in Washington. He may be at home by this time. And let DeMaurice know I'll be in his office at 8:00 in the morning to review the bids."
Nancy could not fathom how her boss decided to do things, but she had grown to expect the unexpected. On any day he might decide to head off in some new direction, leaving her to smooth out the ruffled feathers of everyone who had already made plans and appointments to meet with Perot but who would suddenly be told, "Sorry, he left town on urgent business". She simply said, "Right away, sir."
Perot started reading the next section of information from the future which was about Ruhollah Khomeini. His mind boggled at the connections between Dick Cheney, Seymour Hersh, the recently ended Vietnam War and new wars in Iran and Afghanistan that were even then being brought into being by Perot's past successful effort to prevent the Vietnam War from escalating into a nuclear war. Somehow Perot's actions here in the past were thrusting Khomeini into a critically important role in world affairs, a role that he never had in the original timeline of world events.
His phone rang. Perot picked up and Nancy said, "There is one more flight to Washington tonight. The limo will be here in half an hour. Your wife is not home yet, but I have Hersh on a line." There was a click on the phone line. Nancy said, "Mr. Hersh, here is Mr. Perot."
There was another click as Nancy removed herself from the connection. Perot said, "Mr. Hersh, I hope I'm not disrupting your dinner."
Hersh swallowed the food he had been chewing. He said rather peevishly, "I hope you do not mind listening to me eat. Do I know you Mr. Perot?"
Perot shut down his computer and pulled his well-worn travel kit out of a drawer. "No, we have never met, but your work has attracted my attention. Can I meet you for lunch tomorrow? I have some information that will be of interest to you in your investigations."
Hersh did not want to say anything important over the phone. Mainly he was paranoid about possible repercussions from his investigations into the past follies of the CIA and various government officials... he would not be surprised to learn that his calls were monitored... but he was particularly wary of strangers calling from the blue and trying to ingratiate themselves. He tried to sound disinterested and sarcastic, "Really? How interesting. What is the name of your organization? EDS? What is that? Do you do contract work for the federal government?"
Perot replied, "My company is called Electronic Data Systems, based here in Texas, but with several branch offices. Our stock is publicly traded, you can look up the details. We've submitted some bids on federal contracts but we have not yet broken through on the federal level. Where's your favorite place for lunch? I'm buying."
Hersh chuckled and sounded skeptical, "Maybe you should mail me a short description of the information you have. I might not be interested and we could save you a wasted trip to D.C."
Perot was not going to take "no" for an answer. It was just a matter of getting the bait under Hersh's nose. "Mr. Hersh, I'm sure that you will be very interested in what I have to tell you. In fact, your friend Jennifer is involved."
Hersh no longer seemed to be dismissive of Perot. "Very well, Mr. Perot. There is a Japanese restaurant right at Connecticut Ave and Lafayette Square. Shall we meet there at noon?"
Perot agreed. "That will suit me very well. Good night."
Perot hung up the phone, picked up his travel case and headed for the door. The phone rang again. He picked up, "Yes?"
Nancy said, "Here's your wife."
Before Nancy left the line, Perot said, "Oh, Nancy, one more thing. Please let Harold Koplow know that I'd like to drop by on Thursday to discuss software. Have him call me in Washington tomorrow and let me know what time suits him."
Nancy said. "Right. Will do." Then she asked, "Oh, did you want me to make a hotel reservation for you in Washington?"
Perot replied, "No, I'll have no trouble getting a room. I still have not decided where I'll stay. I'll let you know where I am after I get my room."
There was a click as Nancy left the line, then Perot's wife, Margot, asked, "You are going to Washington?"
Perot replied, "Hello, Margot. Yes, I'm going to the airport right now. I want to know if you can meet me in Boston for dinner tomorrow."
Morgot moaned, "What? I thought we were going there in the Fall."
Perot chuckled, "Well, yes, hopefully we will be there this Fall when the trees are at their peak color, but I have to go to Massachusetts after Washington, so why pass up the chance now?"
Morgot laughed, "You're crazy, do you know that? I'll be there if I can. Call me in the morning to see if I manage to get away."
"I will. Now I have to run to the airport. Give my love to the kids. I love you!" He hung up and sprinted out of his office towards the waiting limousine.
Perot managed to get a few hours of sleep during the flight to Washington and then a few more in his suite at the Hay Adams Hotel. After checking in to the Hotel he called Margot and let her know that he had reached the Capitol and where he was staying. She still was not sure if she would make it to Boston, but said she was hopeful that she would soon hear back from a friend and a paid nanny who often took care of the Perot children when Ross and Margot were out of town.
Perot then called his office and left a message on Nancy's answering machine letting her know that he was staying at the Hay Adams Hotel.
For a long time he stood looking out the window of his room which afforded a view of the White House. Perot found his thoughts a strange mix of concern for the unaltered need to drive EDS to prominence and gain a toehold in the competitive world of winning Federal contracts, the new information from the future that had arrived on the floppy disk and his wife Margot.
He quickly corrected himself: "You are not her husband." Upon arriving in 1965 he had mercilessly taken over Perot's identity and life. It had been anticipated that the most delicate part of the charade would be making sure that Margot did not notice that another man had been substituted for her husband. The method used to fool her involved faking a stroke and three months of hospitalization. When "the new Perot" from the future emerged from hospital, he could blame the faked illness for all changes in personality and all failings on memory.
But over the years, the "fake Perot" from the future has grown to love "his wife", and he felt that while she had noticed the difference between himself and her real husband, she had possibly come to love him even more than the real Perot. With the arrival of the disk from the future the next few years would be particular hectic while Perot tried to alter the course of world events and prevent two looming wars. Perot had settled into a routine and comfortable life with Margot, but now that was threatened. He felt obliged to try to give her some kind of warning for the change that would be coming into their lives.
First thing in the morning Perot used room service to order breakfast brought to his room. He then went to the lobby and asked the concierge to reserve a seat for him on a flight to Boston that afternoon. Exiting the hotel, he walked south along the sidewalk and then turned left to stroll up H Street to the offices of DeMaurice Associates, the lobbyists who were trying to win federal contracts for Perot's company. After spending several hours reviewing the status of the contract bids, Perot turned his thoughts back to the matter of Dick Cheney and Seymour Hersh.
Walking back towards his hotel along H Street, he reflected on the possibility of trying to get an appointment for a face-to-face meeting with Cheney. But what would he do, just walk down to the White House and knock on the door? No, that was silly, and it would be just as fruitless for Perot to try to directly contact the Director of the CIA. Working through someone like Hersh was the logical approach to the problem, even if it was an indirect path to Perot's real objective. The data from the future was clear: Hersh was the recipient of leaked information coming from disgruntled CIA employees and Hersh could serve as a useful conduit for revelations and information that Perot had received from the future. It was mainly a matter of constructing a cover story that would sucker Hersh in and propel him down the correct investigative avenues.
Perot allowed himself a few minutes to wish longingly for mobile phone and portable computing technology. Mobile telephony was one of the technologies that he routinely kept watch on and supported its development, so he knew that functional mobile phones had recently been demonstrated in prototype. However, his estimate was that it would be several more years before a commercial mobile phone service would launch. At the moment he was feeling particularly frustrated because he was cut off from the data on the floppy disk from the future. He only had a chance to study a small part of it before leaving Dallas, but it was clear that Hersh and the New York Times were at a critical decision point that would influence the course of historical events, so Perot could not delay. Still, it would be wonderful to be able to access and review the data from the future at his leisure. Instead, that information sat locked in his office safe waiting until he could return to Dallas and the one computer in the world running the software needed to read the disk. Anyhow, it was safer this way. Perot could print out the information from the future, but how could he explain what it was if anyone else in this primitive time happened to read it?
Perot briefly returned to the lobby of the Hay Adams Hotel and found that his wife had called to say that she was taking a flight to Boston and had made reservations for them at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Perot also found that his plane ticket to Boston was waiting for him in his mail slot. He decided that he should have time to have a relaxed lunch meeting with Hersh before having to get back in time to check out and get to the airport. It was 11:40; not too soon to head out and meet Hersh.
Perot walked west along H Street adjacent to Lafayette Square and he reflected on the fact that in his timeline, where he was walking was ground zero for one of the nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles that hit Washington in 1970. After his arrival in 1965, Perot had used a two-pronged approach to preventing the nuclear war of 1970. First, Perot had deployed a nanorobotic swarm that infected President Johnson's brain and induced a severe state of anxiety. Second, Perot sent to the White House a draft of an investigative journalism report about how Johnson's policies in Vietnam had first intentionally provoked armed conflict in the Gulf of Tonkin and then how the opportunistic Johnson seized upon the Gulf of Tonkin Incident as an excuse to lead the United States into open warfare with North Vietnam. Johnson's health then quickly went downhill and he began to moderate his anti-communist and pro-Israel zeal.
After Perot's interventions, in the tense lead-up to the Six-Day War in 1967, Johnson restrained the US Navy and avoided open conflict with forces of the USSR that were densely deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. After that, with no dramatic military victory during his first elected term as President, Johnson's public support crumbled and he did not even bother to run for a second term as President. Thus, the foundation was never established for Johnson's aggressive buildup in Vietnam and the resulting nuclear war with China and the USSR never came to pass. However, while Perot's chief objective of preventing nuclear war had been accomplished, that fundamental change to the timeline triggered some unexpected consequences.
In particular, the Nixon presidency had come into being and then Nixon's dirty dealing had ultimately lead to public distrust of the Executive branch, the military and the US intelligence agencies such as the CIA. Now, here in 1975, there was a battle going on between the forces of reform who wanted to correct the excesses and errors of the past and the remaining hardline anti-communists who felt that the CIA needed to be protected and allowed to break a few eggs while containing communist aggression around the world. Hersh was one of the most prominent investigative journalist serving as a relief valve for the release of CIA secrets and news of past CIA excesses...and outright illegalities.
Perot's expectation was that a similar approach to how he had threatened to reveal Johnson's secrets could be used to deal with two new pending wars that the disk from the future described: a war between Iran and Iraq and a war in which the USSR would invade Afghanistan.
For a moment Perot once more reflected on an idea that had been bothering him, the possibility that it did little good to prevent wars. It seemed that there might be some law of conservation of war: prevent one war and another would take its place.
Deep in thought about alternate timelines, Perot suddenly noticed that he was in front of the restaurant where he was to meet Hersh. Perot approached the door of the restaurant and looked in through the window, hoping that the cowboy hat he was wearing would attract Hersh's attention. Hersh came out onto the sidewalk and introduced himself. Hersh held the door for Perot and said, "Come on in, we have a table waiting for us."
Perot and Hersh only made polite small talk until their meal was served. Finally Hersh said, "Well, Mr. Perot, it is nice of you to buy me lunch, but I suppose you expect something from me in return." Hersh has been disturbed by Perot's mention of the code name "Jennifer" on the phone and he wanted to know exactly how much Perot knew about the secret CIA Project Jennifer. "I assume you saw the article in the Los Angeles Times about the Glomar Explorer."
Perot felt no need to lie about minor details. "No, I have not seen that article, but I understand you researched and wrote about the Glomar Explorer last year and have not been allowed to publish."
Hersh sat back in his chair and wondered where Perot had gotten his information. "Would you mind telling me how you know that?"
Perot chuckled, shook his head and said, "Sorry, but I'd rather not say. Does it matter?"
Hersh shrugged. "I suppose it is not important. I'll give you a friendly bit of advice, Mr. Perot. If you are planning to publicize the true purpose of the Glomar Explorer, don't bother. You'll just bring down on yourself and your company the kind of attention that will do you no good."
Perot accepted the advice magnanimously. "I really have no personal interest in the Glomar affair. I only mentioned it to you as a way to attract your attention and introduce myself. I'm more concerned about the future than events of the past."
Hersh decided he might as well eat and try not to show any surprise no matter what Perot said. "Well, personally, I've not been able to put the Glomar Explorer out of my thoughts or view it as a matter in the past. I still intend to see my story on the matter published...eventually."
For a few minutes they spoke to their waiter and attended to their meal. Hersh then continued, "What did you mean when you said you are interested in the future, Mr. Perot? I understand, from my research into your company, that you are something of a pioneer in using computer technology in innovative ways."
Perot smiled as he thought about being a pioneer who had traveled deep in history. "These are interesting times. Our culture is moving out of the Industrial Age and is creating a new form of human existence, an Information Age. I'm just a glorified book keeper, but you are a man suited for the future, for the age of information. Information is your business, Mr. Hersh."
Hersh was uncertain about the validity of Perot's theory. Hersh said, "I'm not sure that your computer tricks and technologies are going to ever serve my information needs. I work to find information that the public should have. Computers just provide more ways for the spooks to hide their secrets."
Perot suggested, "I'll give you a friendly bit of advice, Mr. Hersh. Judge me by what I am able to do and deliver, not by my job description. I'm a book keeper by trade, but I share your idealism and I'm interested in the process by which government secrets can be revealed...revealed as needed to benefit this country...and the entire planet. Perhaps you can tell me the best method to pass information to you, best for you, best for me...best for everyone."
Hersh rubbed his chin. "If you are worried about protecting yourself, I'm afraid that you've already hopelessly compromised yourself by meeting with me. You might as well just tell me what is on your mind."
Perot explained the "dirty secret" that was on his mind. "I do not mind telling you, I just do not want to make your life more difficult for you by passing information to you in a way that will compromise your ability to act on it. I find it interesting that some men are treated like war criminals while others are pardoned for their crimes. I'm sure you are kept well-informed about the on-going struggle over cleaning skeletons out of the closets at the CIA. Are you aware of the fact that several congressmen conspired with Nixon when he decided to bomb and murder half a million Cambodian civilians? I'm particularly concerned about the future of one of those co-conspirators...one of the murderers."
Hersh grimaced at Perot's dramatic choice of words and looked at the diners who were seated at the table nearest their own. "I suppose blunt talk is welcome in Texas, but in politically oriented cities like this one, there is a commonly heard saying...all is fair in love and war."
Perot nodded. "Maybe it is better to say that 'all is fair' when both parties in a two party system want to protect themselves. In this case, one of those congressmen went on to become President, a President who is facing an election next year and would not like to have old peccadillos brought to the public's attention. That kind of baggage creates a dilemma...the President becomes easy to blackmail and influence. President Ford finds himself in this uncomfortable position."
Hersh asked, "And you want to blackmail and influence the President?"
Perot laughed then replied, "Quite the contrary my good man! I want to insulate him from those who are using his dark past to maneuver him and force him to do their bidding. Let me make it clear: I am a friend of the President...I'm even willing to excuse his role in the half million murders...fair or unfair."
Hersh decided he had lost his appetite. He pushed his plate away and said, "I have two questions for you Mr. Perot. Who do you think is blackmailing the president and how do you propose to stop them? There is a third implicit question: how do you know that the President is being secretly blackmailed?"
Perot asked, "You did not enjoy your meal? Would you like desert?"
Hersh shook his head. "Just answer my questions." He glanced at his watch. "I need to get back to work."
Perot smiled. "Am I boring you, Mr. Hersh? Well, you probably grow weary of evasions, and I do not want to answer two of your perfectly good questions. Still, only the third question needs to be answered: how can the blackmail be prevented?"
Hersh was puzzled by Perot's choice of words in rephrasing the question. "Are you saying that the blackmail has not yet taken place? How could you possible know about it?"
Perot replied, "Yes, I mean 'prevented'. The blackmailer is already in position. He is in a position where he can act decisively to staunch the flow of secrets, protect the President from unwanted scrutiny of his past actions and help push Ford out the back door of the White House and into the dust bin of one term presidents. But I want to focus your attention on the way to stop the blackmail from taking place, and for that I hope to make use of your contacts in the CIA so we can find a way to protect the DCIA."
Hersh asked, "The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency? William Colby?"
"Think abut it, Hersh. How many of your sources in the CIA would dry up if Colby was fired? It is in both of our interests to give Director Colby a helping hand."
Hersh asked, "Do I have this right? Are you saying that Rumsfeld is trying to get Ford to fire Colby?"
Perot shrugged, "Well, I would not put it in exactly those terms, but yes, you have captured the essence of the matter."
Hersh asked, "And how do you propose to prevent this from happening?"
Perot drained his coffee and then replied, "I think that as concerned citizens we should be prepared to do anything we can to prevent this tragedy from happening. There are three names I want to suggest to you, three associates of Rumsfeld who are deserving of your investigative attention. I propose that you take these three names from me and do your job. The rest will all take care of itself."
Hersh folded his arms across his chest. "I can't fathom how you've reached your conclusions. Do you really expect me to take time to pursue this matter based on what you've told me?"
"My dear Hersh, I'm handing you the biggest scoop since Watergate and you want me to think that you might just walk away? I think I know you better than that. Here are the three names: Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Robert McFarlane. All three would be happy to do anything they can to speed Colby into retirement." Now Perot looked at his watch. He said, "Its getting late and I've taken enough of your time. Let's stay in touch and compare notes in a few weeks...that should be long enough for you too check the lay of the land between Rumsfeld and Colby...you'll find it littered with the tracks of Wolfowitz, Cheney and McFarlane. You'll have no trouble confirming that the situation is as I've described it."
Hersh stood up and shook Perot's hand. He said, "Thanks for lunch."
Perot watched Hersh depart and signaled for the check. He muttered to himself, "The game has begun."