White House Crashers: How the Salahis Strolled Past Secret Service

President Barack Obama greets Michaele and Tareq Salahi during a receiving line in the Blue Room of the White House before the State Dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.

Nearly a week after aspiring reality-TV stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the Obamas' first state dinner, new details have emerged about the couple and their daring two-hour masquerade on the White House grounds.

Sources tell ABC News the leading theory in the ongoing Secret Service investigation is that officers at the initial White House checkpoint waived the couple in, assuming that their names would be checked against a guest list at the next one.

ABC News cameras first spotted the Salahis arriving at the White House with a Bravo Network TV crew in tow around 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 24.

VIDEO: Socialite Reality-TV Wannabes Who Crashed White House Met President Obama
null

The couple proceeded through the first checkpoint and continued several hundred yards to a second screening station, where their names should have been checked but apparently were not. The Secret Service says here the Salahis went through a metal detector and were checked for weapons.

At 7:35 p.m., a Marine announced the Salahis to the world as the glitzy couple waltzed right into the supposedly super-secure entry hall, completing an extraordinary breach of security.

"Those people could have had an outstanding arrest warrant or could have been involved with a terrorist group," said Robert Kessler, author of "In the President's Secret Service."

VIDEO: Socialite Reality-TV Wannabes Who Crashed White House Met President Obama
null

The Salahis then mingled at an exclusive reception in the White House East Room before proceeding at approximately 8 p.m. to the Blue Room, where they greeted President Obama and India's Prime Minister Singh.

"They are taking a tremendous risk with the life of the president of the United States," said Kessler.

But the Salahis weren't done. By 8:30 p.m. they were rubbing elbows in the dinner tent on the White House's South Lawn, meeting White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Vice President Joe Biden.

By 9 p.m., just as the dinner started, the Salahis exited.

VIDEO: Who Are the White House Gate Crashers?
null

The White House says flatly the couple was not invited. But Paul Gardner, the Salahi's attorney, has suggested this was a misunderstanding. "My clients were cleared, by the White House, to be there," he said.

Investigation of WH Crashers Continues

Over the weekend, the Secret Service took full responsibility for the Salahis' breach, saying in a statement by director Mark Sullivan that the agency is "deeply concerned and embarrassed" by the apparent breakdown in security.

The Secret Service interviewed the couple over the weekend and sometime this week will work with prosecutors to decide if they should be charged.

Among the charges that may be considered are trespassing and lying to a federal officer. Any decision will likely rely on what was said by the couple to secret service officials. Did they lie, mislead--or just grin and walk?

Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said today blame lies squarely with the agency.

"Bottomline: We're responsible. It could have been very easy to make a phone call or get on a radio and verify if someone was on a list. This is still our responsibility as we've said from the beginning," Donovan said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced Monday that he plans to hold a hearing on the crashers later this week.

Secret Service director Sullivan and the Salahis themselves will be called to testify, Thompson says.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...