U.S. News

Uninvited guests crash White House dinner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Secret Service is investigating how an uninvited couple was admitted to U.S. President Barack Obama’s White House state dinner, penetrating layers of security, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Tareq Salahi and his wife Michaele Salahi arrive for a state dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House, November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The agency charged with protecting the president and other high-level officials is conducting a comprehensive review of the security breach on Tuesday at the dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, U.S. Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said.

The Washington Post first reported that a northern Virginia couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, not on the official guest list, crashed the White House party but were never seated at a table in the South Lawn tent where the dinner was held.

The White House has asked the Secret Service for a full review of what happened, an official said.

“An initial finding has identified one of our checkpoints that did not follow proper procedures to ensure that the two individuals that were named in the Washington Post story were on the invited guests list,” Donovan said. But he said no one at the dinner was ever in danger.

“I want to stress that these individuals went through magnetometers and several other levels of screenings just as all of the guests attending the dinner did,” he said.

“We don’t rely on just magnetometers or the level of screenings,” he added.” That’s why we have the agents with our protectees at all times.”

The couple, described by The Washington Post as aspiring reality-TV stars and polo-playing socialites, were seen arriving at the White House.

According to the Post, the uninvited guests were in the same room as the Obamas and Prime Minister Singh, but it is not known if they met.

A dozen pictures posted on Facebook appear to show the couple posing with dinner guests including Vice President Joe Biden, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, CBS News anchor Katie Couric, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Additional reporting by Alistair Bull, editing by Vicki Allen