White House Crashers: How the Salahis Strolled Past Secret Service

New details emerge about the Salahis two-hour White House masquerade.

November 29, 2009, 9:20 PM

Nov. 30, 2009— -- 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.

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."

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.

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.

"This is a time for answers, recognition of security deficiencies past and present, and remedies to ensure the strength of the Secret Service and the safety of those under its protection," said Thompson. "My confidence in the management of the Secret Service hangs in the balance."

In recent years several congressional committees have examined accusations of mismanagement at the Secret Service, including concerns of inadequate resources at the agency, potential inaugural security vulnerabilities, insufficient diversity in the ranks, and morale issues plaguing the Service's Uniformed Division.

Salahis: Washington's Most Notorious Couple?

In the hours before the state dinner, the Salahis visited an upscale salon and spa in Georgetown, where they prepared for their evening in the spotlight.

"With Michaele, she has a history of saying she's going to show up and never shows up," Edwin Gomez, owner of the Edwin Gomez Hair Salon and Spa, told ABC News. "She makes an appointment and never comes in."

On Nov. 24, Salahi did keep her appointment, staying for seven hours while Gomez did her make-up and stylist Peggy Loakim handled her hair.

"I had asked her, I said, 'Do you have an invitation?' She said, 'Yes, I do.' And I said, 'Can I see it?' And she tried looking for it and she couldn't find it," said Loakim.

"She loves to wow people," Gomez said. But Salahi didn't 'wow' the staff of Gomez's salon: after the marathon session, she left no tip, Gomez said.

In fact, Gomez says the Salahis still owe the salon thousands of dollars for services from their wedding day, an extravagant event that featured 2,000 guests and 15 photographers, according to a video and details the couple posted online.

The Salahis have carefully recorded all of their brushes with celebrity over the years on their Facebook page. A quick glimpse of their online photo collection shows them posing with actors, musicians, royalty, and even a "Dancing with the Stars" winner.

In several photos, Michaele Salahi calls herself a model, posing with alumni at a Washington Redskins cheerleader event. But Redskins management tells ABC News she has never been on the sidelines for their team.

By many accounts, the Salahis are textbook "Facebraggers" – people who document their every move on Facebook – pointing out the fact that their appearance at the state dinner was not the first time they met President Obama.

In one picture, the couple stands alongside Obama and members of the Black Eyed Peas. In another, the couple is sitting in the president's private inauguration day viewing booth with the caption: "exactly where President Obama and the First Lady were seated."

Ironically, had the Salahis not "Facebragged" about their night at the White House on Nov. 24, they might never have gotten caught.

Salahis Aspire to Reality TV

Tareq and Michaele Salahi are angling for a spot on the upcoming reality-TV series "Real Housewives of D.C.," produced by the Bravo Network.

Upon their arrival at the state dinner, the couple was being filmed by a reality-TV crew, but the network says the Salahis told producers they had an invitation.

"People who would lie to get into the White House and crash parties are definitely not the types of people I would necessarily want to rub elbows with," "Real Housewives of New York" star LuAnn de Lesseps told ABC News.

She says reality TV is not to blame for the Salahi's behavior, but the misguided desire of certain individuals to do anything in the quest for celebrity.

"These are people who are seeking out reality shows and are doing desperate things to make that happen," she said. "I think if you seek out to be on a reality show that there is nothing wrong with that. I think if you do something obnoxious by behaving badly and breaching White House security to be on a show, I think that is over the top and definitely not acceptable."

Public backlash against the Salahis has appeared online and on the couple's Facebook page, with some messages calling for jail time and worse.

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