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. bill

    What aren't these people arrested?!!!!!!!! This is even more embarrassing. Can't the secret service find them? What the H?!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 27, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. Indy

    They should be embarassed but that is the end of the story. The republicans will blame Obama directly for this but it is minor compared to going to war with Iraq. These people meant no harm to the President and in fact are much more harmeless then the hatred and scare tatics the Republicans and Sarah Palin seek on the defenceless. I do think this couple should be charged criminally so that idiots get that seeking fame crimainally will not be tolerated.

    November 27, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  3. Bertin Evina-Ze

    In the US it is very common to find icompetent fools in critical positions. It is disgusting. I feel like vomiting. How difficult is it to follow proper procedures. Shame on the Secret Service!!!

    November 27, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  4. Jakester

    All day long every news chanel has pointed announced that :"a magnetometer was employed and therefore no one was in any danger at any time."
    Any child in America knows that everyones life and they welfare of our Nation was endangered yet these stupid idiots kept reporting this ignorant tidbit

    November 27, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  5. Laverne

    @ Tom. The administration does not run the secret service. It is ridiculous that Obama gets blamed for everything including stuff that happened when he was a child. Tom, your knowledge of the functions of government is obiously very limited.

    November 27, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  6. Barbara

    This is really scary..... and the problem was supposed to have happened at the FIRST checkpoint, and not caught at any of the others. The fact that she and her husband got close enough for her to grasp the President's hand is downright unbelievable. Since the President's inaugural the risks against his life have increased by nearly 400%, which should mean, logically, that security would be ON THEIR TOES. Get with it!!!! God protect President Obama and his family... it seems those hired to do the job are looking the other way.

    November 27, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. ric n california

    The Secret Service made a huge mistake and has acknowed its mistake having said that< some heads need to roll. the person holding the Office of the Persident is to important on a world wide basis to have just anyone walk into a White house event. after the investigation is complete disscipline, should be severe and quick.to ensure that a repeat of this mistakte does not reocurr.

    November 27, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. Jay E Myers

    Don't doubt for a second that there aren't a couple of Right Wing Republicans serving in the Secret Service, a couple of ex Cheney guys, and just itching to "make a mistake." This country is heading towards Civil War.....

    November 27, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  9. ric n california

    someone needs to be fired for this most severe mistake. The Office of the Presidency is the most high office in the USA and the world> The person who occupies that Office deserves to be protected by professionls.

    November 27, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  10. Tony in Maine

    Tom – Obama is protected by the Secret Service, a federal law enforcement agency. Though he is doubtless on a first name basis with the agents and many of the uniformed officers, he does not select or train them. In fact, no one in the WH does either any more than they select and train FBI agents or DEA agents.

    It's time for you Freepers to do what you shouted from the rooftops in 2001 and 2005. (We won you lost) "Deal With It."

    Now, I wonder if the party crashers gave any thought to how their actions will impact the careers of the people in the thin line that protects POTUS. I'm betting their only thought was a few moments of fame and a television contract. Adult spoiled brats.

    November 27, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  11. Tony in Maine

    OMG – I agree with a Libertarian.

    GASP. (I'm smiling)

    Well put Erik

    November 27, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  12. Nick in LA

    This is not a political issue, Tom.

    Nice try.

    November 27, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  13. TCM

    Shame on the common folk mingling with the royalty! Heck, the secret service, along with the military are probably as sick of the incompetence as the rest of us are...can you imagine having to work and protect those incompetent idiots?? They're the dangerous ones; and the sooner the stupid libs in this country grow a brain from their brain stems and realize it...the better off the country will be. 2010 and 12 cannot come soon enough!

    November 27, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  14. Mike

    put the jerks in jail.
    It was premeditated tresspassing on federal property. Make up truck and cameras were with them to the gate.
    Then the morons who let the pass to the next station, fire them. There is no place for this neglegence. Or better still make them gate guards in the Somalia embassy.

    November 27, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  15. Gloria Oberste

    Dear Director of Secret Service Mark Sullivan, I am quite sure that the Secret Service men and women at still at the top of their game. Even without watching 'The West Wing', I know that you and your people are a really special group of Americans. I am sure that this screw-up is not due to anything you or your staff did, but rather, once again, you step up to the plate and take the blame. I know that things will get tightened up and that others recognize how important it is to listen to your guide lines.
    I sleep better knowing that President Obama and his family, and Vice President Biden and his family, and others are protected by the Secret Service. Be assured that not all of the American Public just sit on their brains. Thank you for all your fine work. Gloria Oberste

    November 27, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  16. Carolyn

    This was not at all a funny incident. This could have been an international incident that could have harmed our country for years to come – the President was entertaining the Prime Minister from India for God's sake. The Secret Service needs to be interrogated and there should be people doing time for this failure of duty. Seriously, from calling the President a liar, to threatening to secede from the union, and generals who are arguing their case in the media, to now failing to protect the leader of our country, we don't have to worry about Al Queda – we will destroy our county ourselves.

    November 27, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  17. FL

    The Secret Service is not a partisan agency. It really is scary that they let someone slip in like this, and I am a conservative. To start a conspiracy theory that they are intentionally under-staffing and making a mistake to let something happen to Obama is really an irresponsible thing to say, bob.

    November 27, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  18. Phil

    While I'm not a big fan of President Obama, the comments here which attempt to turn this into a political matter are absurd. Secret Service goes to great lengths to protect our President and it should concern all of us that this would happen to any President! I would imagine these mistakes are very rare, but it only takes one mistake for a serious problem to occur.

    November 27, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  19. Lilarose, Bandon, Oregon

    No doubt the secret service agents in question were so ga-ga over the fake blond little bimbo that they forgot what they were there for....

    Guarding our president!

    I wonder how many other snafus the secret service let happen.

    Or, maybe they WANT things to happen, maybe there are secret service people who themselves have sneaked into the Secret Service ranks in order to bring harm to the President.

    Ain't impossible............

    November 27, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  20. Joy

    I totally agree with you Bob, i find they are almost if not certainly waiting for something bad to happen. How is it that these kinds of things never happened when Bush was President? It is incredible how they work and also incredible what they choose to ignore. Obama is one of the Presidents who truly is interested in the well being of the american people and looking out to make it a better America all together. And here we are allowing Mr and Mrs Whoever, not only enter the WH but they allow them to shake hands and eat and be fully accessible to doing just about anything to the american #1. They wanted to do all but kill the guy who shot his shoe at Bush but they are thinking of only charges? I am totally blown away, with the H1N1 and God only knows what else this couple could have spread, this is totally unbelievable if not certainly planned.

    November 27, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. Big John

    We all make mistakes and fortunately it wasn't catastrophic. They did send all the guests through the metal dectors so live and learn, I'm sure it won't happen again.

    November 27, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  22. Independent Lilarose, Bandon, Oregon

    Tom, the reason you think this administration is "amateur hour" is BECAUSE the presidency is filled by amateurs every four years and has been since George Washington became president.

    Maybe you would like a dictatorship? They start out as amateurs but eventually become professional dictators by virtue that they, like Fidel Castro, stay in power till they are ancients or dead.

    November 27, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  23. Obama is a Mistake

    Washington is so pretentious and phony. This doesn't surprise me at all. It's worth a laugh.

    November 27, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  24. Ron Foyee

    Amateur hour is not an accurate call. This is more like gameday at the zoo. A real four year jaunt into fantasyland. Anyone with half a brain will be leaving this country really soon...definitely before this four year tour into surrealism is over!

    November 27, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  25. DD

    Personally, I smell a rat. This couple got themselves all dolled up for a State Department dinner assuming one of the checkpoints would screw up? Does this even make any sense? What are the odds of that happening?

    I say we've not heard the last of this, and the Secret Service's "we're embarrassed" was nothing more than the most palatable way for them to deal with what might be a much more serious internal issue, like pay-offs to guards to look the other way, or worse.

    November 27, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
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