November 28th, 2009
10:15 AM 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: Popular Posts • White House
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Right wingnuts are the darlings of dementia

    We are all very fortunate that these people were not wingnuts.

    November 28, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  2. Virginia

    I hope these two creeps meet the same fate as the 'balloon boy' family, and they become poison for any reality show.

    November 28, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Joe Kent Island, MD

    This is absolutely unacceptable!! The fact that X number of sites and events were successfully protected means nothing. A failure at what should be the most protected residence in the world leads me to believe that there have been other failures that we were just "lucky" enough not to have been tested by those who mean our president harm.

    The secret service needs to be totally reexamined from top to bottom, and heads should roll for this! In the mean time, the president should be protected by additional agencies such as the FBI to double present measures.

    Failures like this have lead to the loss of the Kennedy's, and the shooting of President Reagan and staff.

    November 28, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  4. judy

    An investigation into the Secret Service sounds like a better idea than investigating the couple who got into the dinner!

    November 28, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  5. amberswann

    These people should still go to prison whether they were dangerous or not. It was the secret service fault, but these crashers knew right from wrong and they went anyway. What bloody cheek!

    November 28, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. annie s

    Deeply concerned and embarrassed? With all the racist loonies and other haters out there, they had better be more than that. They had better be perfect at their job – which is to protect the President of the United States. I'd say they failed miserably. Apparently, all any assassins need to do is dress and act like a socialite couple to get past what is supposedly the greatest security in the world.

    November 28, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. william

    The couple who crashed the event should be charged as criminals, and the agents who did no follow protocol should be fired.

    November 28, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. Paul

    Can you imagine what the critisim would be if this happened during the Bush White House?

    November 28, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  9. larry

    somebody should be fired and the couple should go to jail

    November 28, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  10. Adalbert

    US Secret Service can not make mistakes like this. It is unexcusable.

    November 28, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. imgibson

    This is insane! There is enough blame to go around for everyone but the most important thing is these people must be prosecuted for breaking the law. They should not be handling these people with kid gloves!!! If they do it will open the door to every nut case in the country who thinks they can do something stupid like this and get away with it.

    November 28, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. Jean N. Gillian

    Given the fact that this President has received the highest number of threats than any other President in US history, the fact that these two people were even allowed to enter White House grounds, much less the State Dinner, is criminal and not at all funny. The Secret Service personnel and all other personnel involved failed to protect the President, his family and all other guests there, and they should not only be investigated, but terminated immediately . How did this couple enter White House grounds, what was their mode of transportation...did they just drop out of the sky??? Ridiculous and criminal!

    November 28, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. Bill Rynecki

    Assuming they had no intention of harming the POTUS you gave to give them points for chutzpah.

    November 28, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. Lou

    Why have those breaking White House security not been arrested? Can anyone break these laws without fear of retribution? Are not all who enter the White House compound required to show their birth certificate and drivers license?

    November 28, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. Glades

    First the "balloon parents" and now this incident – it seems people will do anything for 15 minutes of fame...

    I'm not one to often say this, but the balloon boy parents and the White House uninvited couple need to be punished, as an example for others that this cannot happen, since in the first case it put the lives of others at risk, and in this case is not only a great embarrassement for America and it's President, but has now ruined the careers of a number of individuals who will be held responsible for this breech...

    November 28, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. SBushinski

    These people should go to jail period. They were where they should not have been without a invite. They have a lot of balls posting this stuff on their web site. Secondly Bravo needs to stay clear of these people. I will not watch Washington Housewives if they are on it. Thirdly the Secret service and anyone else who didn't do their jobs and follow protocol should be fired. This isn't the 1800's when people crashed the whitehouse.

    November 28, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Steve (the real one)

    Right wingnut? Sorry to give you a reality check but wingnuts come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and from all political Parties. Don't believe me? Take a good, hard look to your LEFT!

    November 28, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. Shelley Holzman

    The secret service people are sharing a brain. My husband and I have had experience with former Pres. George Bush Senior visiting my husband's school district . I know what it takes to secure a site. How ridiculous.

    November 28, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. Cynthia in MI

    All the checkpoints failed, not just the initial one. How could these people have gotten in if protocol had been followed thoughout? Unbelievable.

    November 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  20. DrPete

    As Joe Kent mentioned, failures (deliberate or otherwise) of the Secret Service to protect past presidents bodes ill for our current president. Perhaps we should be thankful for this 'canary in a coal mine' event that will force the SS to stay accountable.

    November 28, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. concern

    The Secret Service should be embarrass , if this was Bush White House this would have neaver happen. They got in because they look the part , if the couple were minorites, they would not get pass the gates. If anything happens to Obama and his family , the Secret Service will no longer be needed . Just let the military protect the first family. I read the report that some members of the Secret Service are racist anyway.Not a good look!

    November 28, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. A Proud GOPer

    This definitely wouldn't have happened under Bush/Cheney. They actually knew how to keep the White House and America safe.

    November 28, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  23. beth

    Just guessing but maybe they got in because she looks like Donna on West Wing.

    November 28, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Shocked Disbelief

    Well we know they got through layers of security unless a greater plot is afoot. This is like an open invitation to all the nuts out there. We must be able to protect our President.

    November 28, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Harry O

    The "Crashers" should receive a medal for tackling the "best" security system in the world. What better way for debugging the security system then challenging it. Back to the drawing board!

    November 28, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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