Secret Service takes blame for White House party crashers

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 27, 2009 

MCT

President Barack Obama greets Michaele and Tareq Salahi during a receiving line in the Blue Room of the White House The Salahis were at the dinner without an invitation but made it through security checkpoints.

SAMANTHA APPLETON — Samantha Appleton/The White House/MCT

WASHINGTON — The director of the Secret Service took the blame Friday for security failures that allowed a publicity-hungry couple from Virginia who weren't on the guest list for President Barack Obama's first state dinner to slip through security and directly encounter the president.

White House officials confirmed Friday that Tareq and Michaele Salahi met the president in the receiving line at Tuesday's state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but with the investigation continuing, the officials didn't offer additional details.

Secret Service director Mark Sullivan said in a statement that his organization, which protects the president and processed 1.2 million entries last year alone to the White House complex, "is deeply concerned and embarrassed."

Established protocols at an initial checkpoint, including verifying whether the Salahis were on the guest list, weren't followed, according to a preliminary investigation, Sullivan said, adding, "That failing is ours."

The White House social office oversees guest lists and attendees, and in past administrations has staffed entrances for such events, but White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told the Associated Press earlier this week that no one from her staff was at the checkpoint at the time the Salahis entered.

The Salahis, who are being considered for the cast of the cable channel Bravo's "Real Housewives of D.C." reality show, went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, Sullivan said, but "should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely."

"As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated," Sullivan said.

On her Facebook page, where she posted photos of the night, Michaele Salahi wrote, "I was honored to be invited to attend the First State Dinner hosted by President Obama & the First Lady to honor India."

An attorney for the couple couldn't be reached Friday for comment.

ON THE WEB

A White House photo of President Obama greeting the Salahis at the state dinner

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