November 27th, 2009
06:49 PM ET
8 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:


(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

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. Louis

    I think that anytime someone can walk up to the POTUS wiithout security clearance, that should be a concern for all US citizens, whether you suppot the POTUS or not.. Some people in the Secret Service should be polishing up their resumes right about now!!!

    November 27, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  2. Mike J.

    Investigate the Agents involved and you will have your answer.

    November 27, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  3. Ann

    Really Monster Zero,
    Your comments demonstrate what is wrong with this country over and over again. Even if you do not like the President's agenda he is still a human being, someone's husband and father. A threat FROM anyone towards our President is a threat against US and what United States should represent for ALL people freedom. Grow up.

    November 27, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  4. Michelle

    I think the Secret Service Department should be fired. Even though they passed the security check. If they wanted to kill him, they could have easily used a knife or fork on the table.

    Also, I think the President makes the American people feel that the White House is an open door policy. He should have never started inviting any and everybody to the White House. That house should always be secret and confidential. I disagree with Michelle that it's the people's house, no it's not it's the White House. I understand that you want your family to try to live like normal people. He should have never taken the job, it you want to live like normal people. He is putting himself and the people around him life in jeopardy.

    November 27, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  5. Joan

    The sad part is that the media is giving these wannabe celebrities just what they want. It is pathetic that these people crave attention and people like Larry King give it to them. He should not be giving them air time on Monday night. Ignore them, charge them with lying to the Secret Service, let them serve some time and then maybe this whole reality junk will stop. They don't deserve all of this attention. They should just be charged and that's it. What makes people like Jon and Kate, balloon boy's parents and these two losers think that they should be able to manipulate people this way. It is a sad state of the current culture.

    November 27, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  6. Ian

    Had this happened in England, the head of the Secret Service would have already resigned in disgrace.

    In Japan, he would have committed suicide by now.

    In China, he would have been executed by now.

    In America, he has "the full confidence of the White House".

    Tell me, if you were a cross-dressing terrorist (see that Adam's apple?)prepared to die for your beliefs, wouldn't it be fabulous if you could poison the President of the United States (and the PM of India, and the Vice-President and God knows who else) with a contaminated handshake? Interesting also they have 'disappeared'.

    Amateur is not the word, Tom – I believe you were looking for 'ghastly', or maybe just 'holy s*** we're a bunch of idiots'. My two cents.

    November 27, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  7. Annierae

    I agree with Bob – there needs to be major shakeup at the Secret Service Department from the top down. Obviously, the Secret Service needs retraining on an active and public president. The have forgotten skills from eight years of the VP hiding out in a "undisclosed" underground location and a president who went to bed at 8pm and traveled only to his "ranch" in Texas. The Secret Service should be embarrased.

    November 27, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  8. Randy, San Francisco

    The Secret Service could learn from the security guards used at Walmarts for the Black Friday sales.

    November 27, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  9. josephine

    Potential terrorists are definitely going to be in touch with this daring duo and try to find out how they did it. Copycats with a much more evil agenda. Tea baggers and some fox news commentators are probably licking their chops as more of this fiasco unfolds.

    November 27, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  10. Babs

    Oh please. The couple looked nice and no harm was done to anyone. If it were a fantasy or a reality, the last time I checked you may be a social climber in this country if you want regardless of how much money you spend or borrow. By the way, I do not think we are in an economic position to give more funding to the secret agents. Regardless of the whole or entire story, I believe I heard a lot about maybe there was a problem with under-funding for the secret agents. Anyway, I am glad the couple could dress up and get out of the house; eventhough, a lot of us are trying to stay a float with tax, gas, and food prices on the rise to say nothing of health care, another issue.

    November 27, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. Addison

    These high-class nut jobs need to be prosecuted to the fullest.

    November 27, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  12. IllEagle-J1

    Having worked in a hotel where we had presidential visits, I find this hard to believe from the Secret Service, they used to be quite thorough in their clearance of those to be near the President.

    I realize that not every one is happy with this president, having this position, but are they trying to get this president assasianated??

    November 27, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  13. Tony

    What a joke. These people could have picked up a knife from the dinner and went on a stabbing spree. They could have been those nut teabaggers. These people made the secret service look like a mickey mouse club organization. Fire all of them.

    November 27, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  14. Laura

    I have to agree with Ken in that people are going to lose their jobs over this one. Make light of it if you want, but the simple fact is, those two had access to areas in which they shouldn't have. They met the president, vice president, among others. The president's life is in the hands of the Secret Service and they screwed up big time.

    November 27, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  15. deb

    The same secret service team that guarded Bush now guards the current president. The current administration does not "run" the secret service.

    November 27, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  16. Otto

    Tom, if there is anyone who is an amateur; it's you. No only are you an amateur, you are also quite ignorant.

    The Secret Service is not a part on the direct administration of the White House.

    November 27, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  17. Black Viper

    This is a very serious breach of security in the white house.
    Highly trained killers need no Gun or weapon to kill.
    What is more shamfull is they had access to the president the vice president and his guest.
    Mark Sullivan need to resign period. There is Zero tolerance when it comes to the security of the president of the USA due to history of assasinations of former presidents.

    November 27, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  18. kimberly

    they should be fired at once! The people that snuck in and lied to federal agents should go to prison! BUT President Obama should be very very upset and demand answers. This would have never happened to another president. The secret service should be COMPLETELY at fault and all should be fired! UNREAL!!!! AND NO HATERS, this is NOT Obamas fault, he didnt hire these fools!

    November 27, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  19. Barbara

    Hey Tom-This admisnistration as every one before it-is not in charge of the Secret Service. Get a life and stop blaming this administration for any little thing you feel like. Now Bush on the other hand-we could really get into blaming and there'd be no denying it. No amateur hour with Bush/Cheney-just lies and fear mongering. As far as that dumb blonde and her husband who lied their way into the White House-I feel they need to be prosecuted. They lied. They literally broke into the White House-Our House! Let them get a dose of reality-and I don't mean TV!

    November 27, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  20. drbenk

    They should fire every member of the Secret Service who was responsible for screening guest. Period.

    November 27, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. Reasontovote

    Mr. Sullivan, all the past success mean very little in a job like yours, when all it takes is "one" failure and we all know failure is not an option.

    November 27, 2009 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  22. adrift in canada

    This story never seemed quite right from the time I first heard it. You mean to tell me that two unknown people get all dressed up, go to a state dinner and actually get in by pure luck by meeting a Secret Service agent who didn't do his job, something that he could normally do in his sleep. Yeah, right. You can't get into a silly pop concert without someone checking your ticket. For the couple to attempt it in the first place, you have to suspect there was some kind of plan and some kind of help getting in. Otherwise, why would they even try such a crazy thing?

    November 27, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  23. Anna from Milton, FL

    It doesn't matter how many millions of people have been properly screened. It only takes one improperly screened to do damage. It doesn't matter how many magnetometers have been used. They wouldn't find a vial of anthrax or sarin. The Secret Service really screwed up, and they need to fire the people responsible.

    November 27, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  24. George

    More than one person employed by the Secret Service needs to be immediately dismissed.

    November 27, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  25. TJ

    Yes, fix the Secret Service.
    But also follow through with legal consequences for these two "crashers" who did so with premeditated motives. Failed system or not, they committed a crime, no?

    November 27, 2009 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
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