November 28th, 2009
10:15 AM 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: Popular Posts • White House
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    One hopes these celebrity-crazed morons get charged with something....

    November 28, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  2. j

    The secret service should be more than embarrassed. The agents that didn't follow protocol should be fired. Terrorist and other lunatics are watching. If they think there's a lapse in security, who knows what they might attempt to do. We don't need a presidential assassination and we don't need another 9/11 terrorist attack. These types of incidents prove just how vulnerable we really are.

    November 28, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  3. Right wingnuts are the darlings of dementia

    At least they do not appear to be birtthers, deathers, tea baggers or tea partiers.

    November 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  4. Gilemena

    The couple should go to jail for lying and trespassing.

    She got in because she was blonde and had a big smile. The Secret Service agents were thinking with the wrong part of their bodies.

    November 28, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  5. phillip Marlowe

    So let's blame the beautiful blonde who mesmerized the Secret Service gatekeepers. Way to go girl. The intelligence of the USA is such a joke, always investigating major flaws in our system after the fact, aka 9-11 when all those terrorists were on government watch lists. Lesson learned, blondes really do have more fun!

    November 28, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  6. phil

    The crashers proved that security in this nation is bad. The Salahi's should not be charged but THANKED for finding the HOLES in the security at the White House. The agent who let them go should be hog tied and charged.

    November 28, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. Mike

    Somebody really screwed up at the White House and we are fortunate nothing actually happened. What really needs to happen is the banning of reality shows, none of which have any bearing on reality. If Americans were not so self absorbed with fame and glamour of the moment our society would be much better off. Let's start dealing with problems and not symptoms. Unfortunately, most people can not look beyond the nose on their face or the manufactured Democrat/Republican divide.

    November 28, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. bob in LA

    The Secrect Service personnel that let these people pass need to be let go. The crashers, even though this was a prank, need to be arrested.
    This isn't a high school prom or a local wedding. This is our White House. Respect and security are a must.

    November 28, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  9. misty03

    These people should be prosecuted, period! The Secret service needs to be held accountable for this incident as well. Reading the comments that "this would not have happened under the Bush/Cheney regime" are irrelevant. This incident is a very clear and present danger to our President.

    November 28, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  10. Jeremy

    I love the fact that the liberals think that these two clowns were wingnuts. Also, they are calling for the two to be put away for a long time. This is simply because the incident happened while their savior is president. If Bush would have been president at the time, the liberals would have laughed and made fun of the incident, but since the shoe is on the other foot, they are calling for the heads of these stupid clowns. I agree, they should be put away for getting in the event without permission and crashing a state dinner is a very bad thing, but the double standards need to cease.

    November 28, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  11. snood

    Oh Ya I feel safe. this is barbie and ken messing with the goverment that is suppose to keep us safe. this does leave to many other questions. One being bring the gitmo prisoners here for trial. what they couuld just get ahold of a guard outfit and walk out looking like they belong. of course U dont beleive that but this is a serious mistake the administration has made.

    November 28, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  12. Right wingnuts are the darlings of dementia

    There are a lot of things that Bush did that we laughed at. However, unnecessary war, unwarranted tax cuts, attack on our constitutional rights, and a loss of focus on the security of the United States are not among them.

    November 28, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. sharong58

    I don't mean to sound prejudice but has anyone checked out these 2 people's background? They have foreign names that sound like they could be . . oh, Lebanese, Jewish, Arab, or Iraqi!!! And she came dressed like a harem girl and I would bet her natural hair color is black! . . Really concerned here that these 2 could just stroll in no matter what nationality they are and/or who is President! They should be arrested and their photos should be banned off the interenet!
    Maybe the "reality show wannabes" are much more than that!

    November 28, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. Jeff

    The comment from "concern" says they got in because the SS is racist and the couple aren't minorities. Did you bother to look at the guy's photo and his last name? If he'd tried to board an airplane in Oct, 2001 he'd probably have been strip searched.

    Also, the SS is part of the Dept. of Homeland Security. It's the same agency that protected W and all other Presidents for the past 100 years. Why do you think it wouldn't have happened if the dinner had been held this time last year?

    November 28, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. ProudLib

    I love the fact that the conservatives think this is basically something to laugh about, another chance to take a dig at the current administration. This is simply because the incident happened while Obama is president. If their savior Bush would have been president at the time, the conservatives would have been calling for the heads of these stupid clowns, but since the shoe is on the other foot, they laugh and make fun of the incident. The double standards need to cease.

    November 28, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. Susan

    With the threats against Obama running much higher than with any other president in past history, security should have been even more hightened. Those who allowed these people to enter the grounds should be terminated ... immediately!

    November 28, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. Sniffit

    This is what happens when you dont purge your administration of holdovers from the prior (W) administration. You get people who sabatage things!!!

    November 28, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. LouAz

    Maybe the Secret Service should follow PROCEDURES instead of protocols. Happy Talk contributes to complacency.

    November 28, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Ice-T

    I think the couple did get clearance to attend the state dinner. Even though they were not on the guest list, provisions were made for them to be present.(with a camera crew for a reality show)COME ON NOW! Media, publicity stunts,and the likes is really the means to generate ratings for television and internet sites. Just think about it. And eventually, it will all come down to money some kind of way! Every thing usually does...

    November 28, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. randal

    This could have turned out vastly different with a grave outcome had the crashers agenda been something other than the look at me mentality.They knew it was wrong but did what they wanted.They should be held accountable. Same as the Secret Service officers who failed in their duty. Even the good guys in this case need to face the music as they did wrong as well. Sure we can thank them for the exposure in the lacks procedure but accountability needs to be enforced .

    November 28, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. Dale

    "This is Obama's fault and reflects on him personally." says the Get Obama Party. LOL :D I mock the GOP and their grasping at straws, clinging to every tiny thing trying to tear down the Obama presidency. They criticize him for everything no matter how irrelevant or trivial. But do they give him credit for progress on the economy, or diplomacy? No, of course not. He wins a Nobel Prize and they criticize him for it. He talks to school children about staying in school and they criticize him for it. He takes his wife on a date to New York and they criticize him for it. He takes some time to make an important decision and they criticize him for it. Do you see the pattern here? Can Obama do anything that they would approve of? GOP truly is the party of war, hate and criticism.

    November 28, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  22. Lando

    If they were black or Asian, I dont think they could even get 100 yards
    closer to the gates of a Presidential dinner. But wait...Tariq Salahi....
    isn't that a Middle Eastern name...like Sirhan Sirhan....What
    a bunch of idiotic SS..

    November 28, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  23. Security 101

    This incident should have never happened and could have been prevented. I am a security specialist for the U.S. government and when I heard about this security breach I was stunned. Mistakes happen but this should never have happened. In my estimation this couple's names were not on the access list and at that precise moment they should have been vetted 100%, but they weren't. That was the first breakdown in protocal. It's hard to point the finger after that because these two idiots made it all the way into the protected sphere of POTUS without a glitch. Whoever was responsible for the direct and immediate oversight of the people at the first checkpoint failed to make sure security procedures were followed ahead of time – that was another breakdown in the chain of command. The bottom line is that the person who allowed these two criminals to enter was not properly trained and whoever was in charge of ensuring this person was trained in visitior control proceures did not do their job or the security screener had a complete lapse in judgement.

    As far as "this would never have happened on Bush's watch" I say a more serious crime happened when intelligence was ignored for over a year between the FBI and a single intel supervisor who refused to pass on the fact that a terrorist cell was operating on U.S. soil and directly led to the attacks of 9/11. This is all in a published book titled "The Shadow Factory." The sad fact is that after the 9/11 attacks, Bush flew all of his closest inner circle friends who had ties to Bin Laden out of the country and back to Saudi Arabia to avoid public and congressional scrutiny and to this day a full accounting has never been provided.

    The entire secret service staff should be replaced at the White House immediately.

    November 28, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. amberswann

    It wasn't only our President's safety at stake here, but also the Prime Minister of India. Secret service need to update their system!

    November 28, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  25. Southern gal

    their embarrassment and apology is not enough for this situation. Anytime someone unchecked gets past them and is able to MEET the president is never a good thing, no matter what the event may be.

    This not only puts the president in danger, it also sends out the wrong signals to those who would wish him harm.

    unacceptable.

    November 28, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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