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. Greg

    Erik in PA is right on...the Secret Service has a long history of being above politics, as they should be. Their job is to protect the President and other officials, regardless of their protectees political affiliation.

    Many of the comments thus far seem to want to either imply that the Secret Service is part of a conspiracy to reduce the safety of the President, or that this is better than when Bush was President because the error was acknowledged.

    Folks, wake up to reality! This error shouldn't have happened, and would have been acknowledged by the Secret Service regardless of what President it involved.

    This was completely human error, and I'm guessing there will be employment termination over this in the near future.

    Learn from the error, stick with the processes you have, and keep the President safe...and this from someone who didn't vote for him.

    November 27, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Dorothy

    There is absolutely no excuse for something like this happening. Barak Obama is the President of the United States and since two people just waltzed in to the State dinner, there should be a major shake up in the Secret Service. It makes me sick to think of what might have happened. I think we were very lucky this time. Let's not let this happen again. Mext time we might not be so lucky.

    November 27, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  3. msr

    The gown was perfect for the theme. this president is in such a hurry to get things done that is wrong with American going down every line in the book to straighten America out. the most important things are out the kitchen window. "grass is always greener over the septic tank" I'm looking for employment seems there will be some coming up in Washington, D.C. I hope the crashers get the job they are looking for. how can they be punished they only said they were invited they were when they were let walk through the door!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH AREN'T PEOPLE ASKED TO PRESENT THEIR INVITATION?

    November 27, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  4. cat

    Anyone who wants face time with Obama just needs to make a $$$ donation to the Dems. This is the biggest selling of the WH since Clinton sold the Lincoln bedroom. So much for transparency and honesty. He wil smile and make nice at anyone that will either grease his palm or stroke that huge ego.

    November 27, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  5. Aaron

    Granted, these two are about as dum as a flock of pallins for entering a White House function uninvited. Their self-esteem issues for feeling the need to rub elbows with some of the lowest life forms on the planet, i.e. politicians, is another matter that would take years of theraphy and shock-treatment to understand and/or cure. However, they obviously meant no malice and did not harm any of the "distinguished" guests. Embarrassment to the government seems to the limit of their inflictions. With the number of thieves, liars, and outright treasonous people who destroyed our economy just for starters and walked without repercussions, comparatively speaking, the government is already a bit overzealous in wanting to go after this couple.

    November 27, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. Sunny Oho

    I think they should thank these people. It seems to me they should get a reward for showing the Secret Services weakness. The SS should be glad it was just them and not Bin Laden. Now the SS wants to punish them because they have EGG ON Their FACE. I wonder what Obama would do if they were another color? Have a another beer summit?

    Let them go!!!!

    November 27, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  7. kds

    Calm down, Folks. This is a serious issue that has absolutely NOTHING to do with politics. It has to do with the safety and security of our leader. I have full confidence that the secret service is already taking appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence.

    November 27, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  8. notsurprised

    another glaring example of this Obongo show and it's ineptness.

    yeah, i want these clowns to run our lives and the gubment.
    NO THANKS!

    November 27, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  9. daniel

    Is there nothing the Obama haters won't criticize him for, however absurd the stretch? For heaven's sake, he' not in charge of providing security, that's the job of the Secret Service! By that logic, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and JFK were all responsible for their own deaths!Boy, the pettiness of these wicked little Republican minds, shrunk in bitterness, hatred and jaw-dropping stupidity to the diameter of a constipated ant's arse.

    November 27, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  10. Pat

    If all they wanted to do is meet Obama, all the Salahi's had to do is publicly denounce capitalism, support the government takeover of all private business, and offer Rahm Emanuel about $50,000 to build the Barack Obama Inernational Library in Chicago. That would've easily done the trick without embarrasing the Secret Service.

    November 27, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  11. ICARE

    I will not make a good secret service agent. I am way too honest and truthful. Trust me, if Maddoff and I both interview for a position, he'll get it.

    November 27, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  12. ICARE

    If you can leave your guns at the door, anybody should be able to shake Obie's hands :)

    November 27, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  13. Susan

    The Secret Service SHOULD be mega-embarrassed! And, someone should be oh-so-FIRED!

    November 27, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. ICARE

    I am going to Christmas Carol at the White House this year. Actually, I really cant. I am thousands and thousands of miles away from the White House.

    November 27, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Jesus Francisco

    This was a major mistake and I am sure a rare one, but it is important that it doesn't happen again. People who see this as something other than what it is, are just unpatriotic.

    November 27, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. Dan, TX

    Why should they be embarrassed? Barack Obama himself invited them to the white house. Now he is keeping silent.

    November 27, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  17. no longer a democrat

    Concerned and embarrassed?! This is completely unacceptable! And now there is a photo of this woman shaking the President's hand.

    You're right Marc, this is quite a difference – for the worse.

    November 27, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  18. Robrob

    The trash pick-up was late today as well. Even more evidence this administration is strictly amateur hour and has been from day one.

    "Squawk..."

    November 27, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  19. frombelair

    it`s ok to be embarrassed, and it`s ok to make mistakes and learn from them, nobody and nothing is perfect, it`s not ok to let them go without braking their legs .

    November 27, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  20. Shannon

    Tom & Mark both want to make this about Dems vs Republicans, the secret service is independent of party. This constant them vs us mentality is just bad for the country, and neither one of you know what you are talking about, or you wouldn't have tried to make it a party issue. Someone at the Secret Service screwed up, end of story.

    November 27, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. Doug

    The public was immediately told that they were never close to the President, why are we always lied to first before the facts come out?
    In the pictures, our celebrity leaders look very happy to be with them.
    So what crime ???

    November 27, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  22. The Last Boy Scout

    A mistake has been made by the Secret Service. You can believe that heads will roll, usually from the bottom up. Now close the barn door boy's and girl's and protect our President!!

    November 27, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  23. McCain-in-4

    Common courtesy is normally granted to ANY and ALL Presidents of these UNITED States of America. Sometimes we do not agree with the philosophy of the sitting President. That is understandable; please promote one's self to help us define a course of action. But disrespect of Any President diminishes us all. Show respect – I did for the past eight years and the eight years before that.

    November 27, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  24. mildly amusing

    while a little funny, these two need to go to jail

    November 27, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  25. Marie MD

    Tom, you might read up on who is in charge of the Secret Service and that IS NOT the President. Then again, you probably think the quitter is still a politician, just like CNN.
    If anyone is showing what an amateur and ignoramus he is it's you.
    Those two jokers need to be charged with something (DOJ can figure it out) and the Secret Service needs to get their rear end in gear. This is NOT the first time that this President has been, on what I consider, the inexperienced hands of this department.

    November 27, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
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