November 27th, 2009
06:49 PM ET
5 years ago

Secret Service acknowledges failure in state dinner snafu

President Obama meets the Salahis at Wednesday’s state dinner.
President Obama meets the Salahis at Wednesday’s state dinner.

Washington (CNN) - An internal investigation into a couple who crashed the White House state dinner this week has found that Secret Service agents did not follow protocol at a security checkpoint, the agency said Friday.

"The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner on Tuesday," the agency said in a statement Friday. "The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list."

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple who allegedly crashed this week's White House state dinner, met President Barack Obama in a reception line at the event, a White House official told CNN on Friday.

An internal investigation has found that Secret Service agents did not follow protocol at a security checkpoint.

Full Secret Service statement after the jump:

STATEMENT BY DIRECTOR MARK SULLIVAN

(Washington, D.C.) – On Friday, November 27, 2009, United States Secret Service Director
Mark Sullivan issued the following statement:
“The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances
surrounding the State Dinner on Tuesday, November 24.

The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established
protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were
on the guest list.

Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening,
they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours.

The Secret Service safely processed more than 1.2 million visitors last year to the White
House complex. In the last several years, the agency has successfully protected more than
10,000 sites for the President, Vice President and other Secret Service protectees,
screening more than 7 million people through magnetometers at campaign related events,
with more than 1 million during the Inauguration alone.

Even with these successes, we need to be right 100% of the time. While we have
protocols in place to address these situations, we must ensure that they are followed each
and every time.

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

The men and women of the U.S. Secret Service are committed to providing the highest
level of security for those we are charged to protect, and we will do whatever is necessary
to accomplish this mission.”


Filed under: Extra • White House
soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. G. Demske

    This incident gives me a goose bump.

    I feel that my president's security could have been easily compromised by what this couple proved.

    Kennedy was far from the assasin. This party female invader shook my president's hand ! Good looking women were / are good spies weren't /aren't they? Remember Wilson?

    We are lucky our president is still with us.

    November 27, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  2. D. D.

    This was selfish and embarassed our country. These people deserve an arrest soon and a jail term. Oh they will know change all right in prison. All those who ignorned national security should be dealt with fairly and justly. It was so simple to follow directions that people in charge couldn't do it properly. KISS in this case.
    When will this couple be arrested? Hurry, please?

    November 27, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. Mary Ann in VA

    I was shocked to read that the elite secret service allowed 2 uninvited guests into the white house but appalled that this woman and her husband were allowed direct access to the president. I hope to goodness that these agents are disciplined and replaced or reassigned if necessary to prevent this from happening again. How can such a highly trained and organized group allow this to happen?

    November 27, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  4. Joanna in PA

    Someone need to be FIRED. Seems to me the secret service has been slipping. They let a man throw a shoe at Bush and a couple get into a state dinner at the white house with Obama. Shameful. STEP UP YOUR GAMES. especially with a ll the wing nuts out there!

    November 27, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  5. Jim

    I guess Tom thinks President should have been checking the guests on the list himself. The beauty about free speach in America is that the many no-minds like Tom get to show the world how truly uneducated, hateful, divisive, narrowminded, unamerican and just plain stupid they really are. God help America.

    November 27, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  6. Gary

    It wasn't securities fault, they looked just like the rest of the flakes in the white house

    November 27, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. Carmela, Longwood, Florida

    I would like to know how many many of these secret service clowns/robots are going to get fired for this mishap. I find it unbelievable that I had to relinquish a brand new jar of "Lancome" face cream at LGA because I 'could make a bomb in flight', yet these two nobodies got to shake hands WITH THE PRESIDENT, AT THE WHITE HOUSE no less!!! What's wrong with THIS picture?

    November 27, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  8. me and mr b, oak harbor WA

    Tareq and Michaele Salahi, so precious. They are the poster people for low class behavior. Watching their grinning faces as they prance in where they weren't invited. The Secret Service agents at the gate cannot justify their failure to do the most simple task – match the guests with the guest list. They should be 'outted' by name and face and fired.

    November 27, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  9. Jared

    Yeah, this is a pretty serious mistake. I mean, it blows my mind to think that a couple of (relatively) average people even made it into the White House, let alone meet the President.

    BUT, I think the agents of the Secret Service deserve our thanks. The organization made a serious blunder, but the individual agents are great men and women who put their own safety second to protect our President among others.

    November 27, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  10. Carmela, Longwood, Florida

    Tom: we get it. You are one of those who will NEVER forgive President Obama for winning this election. Get over it already. It was not the error of THIS ADMINISTRATION. The error is the Secret Service's and they will be held accountable.

    November 27, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  11. Garofulaar

    Tom – you're the amateur. The administration doesn't run the secret service.

    November 27, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  12. paula

    Embarrassed? They are embarrassed? I think they should be feeling a bit more heat than that. If I were in charge, heads would be rolling. Embarrassed??? Ye gads boys!!

    November 27, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  13. Elizabeth

    This wouldn't be the first time the Secret Service fumbled! I remember when Reagan flew into my Guard base there were Secret Service people all over the place. I was chatting with an agent who realized that he had misplaced his car keys. Well, he later found them under the front seat of his vehicle. It wouldn't have taken much for someone to jump in the car and drive away. This, of course, is not on the grand scale of what happened at the state dinner, but it shows you that they are not perfect.

    November 27, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  14. Frank

    @ Tom

    The administration does not control how the Secret Service does its job. This is not a partisan issue, why make it one?

    November 27, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  15. Jerry

    This is a very serious breach of security. I can not understand how the Secret Service allowed this to happen, especially at such a major event at the White House. As we have all witnessed to often, too many wicked acts are being done by individuals in society today. Something like this absolutely must never happen again!

    November 27, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  16. Metoo

    Okay! Let's please figure out what happened! This is truly a blessing! Now they(secret service) can figure out what went wrong- so the real bad people can not CRASH through!!! Better Yet! The secret service should employ the Salahis!!!

    November 27, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. Susan in NC

    Good one, Tom........blame the administration - this "blame game" is getting just a bit ridiculous, don't you think? Is President Obama himself now overseeing the Secret Service, too?

    November 27, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  18. Mikeinnc

    Tom,

    What constitutes "amateur hour" is someone who thinks that the secret service is managed and run by each presidential administration.....why does everything get manipulated to be presented as a partisan issue?

    November 27, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  19. Pablo

    Right Tom, the Bush administration was a well oiled machine.

    November 27, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  20. syl

    I hope justice is served for these two that want to be in the spotlight at any cost.

    November 27, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  21. Try, and be done

    Hi Tom,
    let me be clear!
    I am white, 48y old, and I believe in this President!
    If something happened to him, people like you would be gone. Civil war would be like children game. Don't try, or if you do, be prepared to take full responsibilities! I know that FBI can find my address, and I am ready to talk to them. Are you, idiot?

    November 27, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  22. jake, McKenzie, TN

    Bad as a breach of security is, it can be rectified and those errors can be eliminated in the future.

    The genie we can't seem to put back in the bottle is the almost pathological needs of people like this to get noticed... to find personal fame... no matter what cost to those around them. We've seen it over and over again for the past several years, and most recently with the "balloon boy" and his family, and now this set of status seeking cretins.

    In a way, it's their fault and the full force of the law should indeed be applied to make them see that responsibility for irresponsible acts can carry a heavy price tag. But until we get over our need to be voyeurs into the televised lives of people we wouldn't allow around us in real life, expect more such outrageous behaviors.

    Film at eleven.

    November 27, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  23. Craig

    The Salahi's have absolutely no concern for protocol or the safety of a sitting president. Did they give any thought to how this stunt would cause international embarrassment to the White House, the Secret Service and by extension, the American people? They didn’t crash an Easter Egg Hunt on the West Lawn; they crashed a State Dinner. The Salahi’s are sociopaths, they committed a federal crime and should be tried and convicted.

    November 27, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. John K.

    "The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed..." As they should be! Joe Biden looked like he was having the time of his life posing with Michaele, but his salacious thoughts aside, this was a major security breach.

    November 27, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. Phil P.

    I never thought I would agree with a Liberterian, but Erik in PA has hit the nail on the head. Both sides have their share of great leaders and morons. Can we all get over that and move on?

    November 27, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
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