In public, Dick Cheney wears a grimace. In private, Americans have never been quite sure what Cheney does–until now. From June 24-June 27, the Washington Post ran a four-part series on Cheney’s vice presidency that, in the words of Post columnist David Broder, “reveals more about the inner workings of this White House than any previous reporting.”

“Over the past six years, Cheney has shaped his times as no vice president has before,” write reporters Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in the series’ first installment. To back that claim, they spent a year working on the series and conducted over two hundred interviews with people who work with, for, or in the orbit of Cheney. The result is a high-resolution picture of how the vice president, armed with an intimate knowledge of the federal bureaucracy and connections accumulated during his forty-year career in Washington, exercises unprecedented and unseen influence on policies ranging from air pollution and water allocations to war and torture.