November 27th, 2009
06:49 PM ET
4 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. Buddy Gilmour

    The Secret Service is an anachronism and should be re-organized out of existence, with its functions going to DoJ/FBI. In addition, DHS has always been and apparently still is a joke; would like to see a major shake-up there.

    November 27, 2009 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  2. Mindy

    Our Secret Service agents perform a critical and often unacknowledged service for our country. This incident was unfortunate, but no one was hurt and incidents like this are extremely rare. It seems it's easier to focus on the few things people do wrong than the thousands of things they do right... and our Secret Service agents do a lot right. They're actually pretty amazing.

    November 27, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  3. dustin

    I'm sure this couple thought this was all in good fun but i'm sure they've cost people their jobs over this, i hope they go to jail.

    November 27, 2009 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  4. Just Me

    The million dollar question is how the Secret Service overlook the fact that these two people were imposters? While I dont wish to turn this into a race debate, I could not imagine a black couple showing up like these two did and being allowed to get further than the parking lot. These people were given a pass simply based on the fact that they were white and nontreatening in the Secret Service mind. Again, I hate to bring race into this situation, but that is the only explanation for this snafu.

    November 27, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  5. Dennis

    Tom,
    Please crawl back into your playpen and wait to be changed. The Secret Service is NOT a partisan organization, only there to protect the President of the United States. Duh.

    November 27, 2009 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  6. Tracy

    Outrage over 'balloon' boy which posed a threat to the security / safety of airspace but nothing but headlines for these people. The fact that they were able to breach security and shake hands with Obama is incredulous. They need to be arrested as others who have trespassed on WH property. Heads need to roll in the SS because not all 'weapons' can't be detected. Let's be real, this has made the security of this President and VP a laughing stock.I guess all it seems to take is a pretty blond face ....... give me a break.

    November 27, 2009 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  7. GuyInVA

    Quick! One of you lefties find a way to blame this on Dick Cheney!

    This is a non-story. It is being overblown by the media so they can distract from (ignore) the Climate Research Unit scandal.

    November 27, 2009 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  8. joe

    What reality show is the secret service going for?

    November 27, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  9. Jonmann

    No one should lose their job for this, but some serious reprimands need to be made, and some tightening of protocal. Because of the increase in threats more personel should be added.
    In order to assist in preventing this from happening again, the perpetrators should be given jail time to discourage others from attempting to do something similar. Perfection in protection will never be accomplished, but they should strive for it at all times. Please press charges against the perpetrators.

    November 27, 2009 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  10. Freida, NY

    This woman would have never got passed the Secret Service if she had been a minority–never in a million years. That's what I hate about it.

    November 27, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  11. Gentwelve

    When the "People's Militia Party" has replaced the Federal government (per the voting majority). This will not happen, we will also not allow our border to be compromised, our wealth to be stolen, or our children to be sacraficed via illegal military action......

    November 27, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  12. independent

    This is an event that will allow the security around the president to improve. Thankfully, the event demonstrating the weakness was an innocent one. Perhaps this will allow them to prevent a situation in the future that might not be so benign.

    Now, punish the malfaitteurs with 200 hours of community service in a soup kitchen to remind them that the world does not revolve around them.

    November 27, 2009 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  13. DallasMarine

    Even the most lowly security guard knows that you don't let people who don't have access to an area in. Secret service, more like Secret Joke.

    November 27, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  14. Steve in Kentucky

    Well, in the unfortunate but somewhat foreseeable event that some REALLY serious security breach is committed upon the president, I can already foresee the Faux News response:

    Heck, Obama couldn't even control access to his state dinner so nobody should be blamed if a right-wing wacko goes wild and ...

    November 27, 2009 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  15. Cato

    Well, of course there should be some heads rolling at Secret Service. That's an inexcusable breach. Beyond that, those irresponsible imbeciles the Salahis need to be languishing in separate federal prisons for the next 10 years - at a minimum. If you don't meet this kind of foolish "reality TV" stunt with a definite and extreme response, you're going to invite some other idiots to give it a shot themselves. When you're talking about the security posture of the White House and members of the Administration, regardless of their political party, you cannot afford to allow such a ridiculous turn of events. Fire the agents who broke protocol. Lock up the Salahis, and give them a decade to learn the difference between "reality TV" and reality.

    November 27, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  16. Michell

    I think Mr. President and his family should not make themselves accessible too much. I understand that they want to reach out to people but they put themselves in danger and our country can't afford to have them getting hurt. Secrete Service has a tremendous pressure to protect them. It's not excusable for the incident at the State dinner, but due to the popularity and the exposure of the First Family, we have a concern.

    November 27, 2009 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. MK, Miramar FL

    Had the intruders not openly bragged about it, this would not have been caught.

    November 27, 2009 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  18. R Schulz

    this is very scarey. it takes only one such "embarrassment" to bring about tragedy and chaos. somebody's got to be held responsible; something's got to change

    November 27, 2009 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. dina osullivan

    What were they thinking. Don't you have to show an invitatin or something? Well I hope somebody takes a roll for this. This couldhave been a disaster. The nerve of these people. Fame seekers.

    November 27, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  20. jon

    These two publicity seeking lunatics need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    November 27, 2009 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  21. Dwayne

    Excellent protection! The elite protection providers haved failed our president. Imagine that! If it were me I'd resign. I don't trust devils.

    Let's see, white folks show up with guns out in the open at presidential speech...walking around like it's nothing. Hey...not a problem. White folks sneaking in the back door of the white house pretty much. Hey, not a problem. If these were blacks behaving this way with a white man in office...they would have been arrested and criminally charged.

    "If you don't have anything worth dying for then there's not much worth living for is there." MLK Jr. Be safe Pres. Obama! Our prayers will be with you...because obviously your racist protection isn't.

    November 27, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  22. Mike

    We have to be right 100 percent of the time, a terrorist only once. Government regardless of who is in charge or what they are running is sloppy. What good is it to invite people to a state dinner when you don't even know who they are? It just shows our "leaders" throw state dinners for a photo op. When was the last time you invited people to dinner and not know who they were?

    November 27, 2009 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  23. Isabel in California

    Two things really bother me about these "party crashers"

    1. The people in charge of security at the White House are trying to downplay the situation by saying that the couple passed a weapons check. What if they had been carrying cyanide or some other form of poison? The outcome could've been horrendous for many other guests, not just President Obama.

    2. The fact that these crashers had the nerve to show off their photos for all to see on facebook. Where are the charges? Had that woman not been blonde, flirtatious and white as it shows in some of the pics, how far do you all think any other couple of another race would have gotten?

    It just goes to show that even with a black president in office, discrimination will never be completely gone. Lock those crashers up or better yet, let's just give them their own reality show!

    November 27, 2009 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  24. cheater_1

    The head of the secret service should be FIRED and brought up on reckless endangerment charges.
    Next, EVERY single person in ANY position of security that witnessed these people should be FIRED and brought up on charges.
    What a monumental FAILURE at every level. Heads must roll.

    November 27, 2009 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  25. meowser

    For crying out loud, it sounds like I had to go through more security at the bloody Oprah Winfrey Show than these two jokers faced a the White House!

    The Secret Service has to be REMOVED from Homeland Security and returned to the Treasury Department so they can concentrate on their main job – protecting the President. This is an absolute embarrassment.

    November 27, 2009 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
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