Secret Service says officers didn’t verify whether crashers on guest list.By Larry Margasak, AP
Friday, November 27, 2009
Secret Service: officers didn’t verify crashers
WASHINGTON — The Virginia couple who crashed a presidential dinner met President Barack Obama in the receiving line, the White House said Friday, as a “deeply concerned and embarrassed” Secret Service acknowledged its officers failed to check whether the couple was on the guest list.
A White House official did not make clear whether Michaele and Tareq Salahi shook hands with the president or spoke with him. Guests going through a receiving line usually shake hands with the president.
Sullivan added that measures have been taken to ensure the mistake would not be repeated.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Secret Service may pursue a criminal investigation of the Virginia couple who crashed a White House dinner, but events at the security checkpoint may determine whether the security breach is a crime or just an embarrassment.
Jim Mackin, an agency spokesman, said the possible turn toward criminal charges is one reason the Secret Service has kept mum about what happened when Michaele and Tareq Salahi arrived at the checkpoint Tuesday. They were not on the guest list for the dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully falsify statements on matters within the federal government’s jurisdiction.
Nobody disputes that the couple, candidates for a reality TV show, were allowed through security. The Secret Service acknowledges that its procedures weren’t followed.
Yet, it remains unclear whether the couple lied to the security officers and, if so, whether they violated federal law.
“As this moves closer to a criminal investigation there’s less that we can say,” Mackin said. “I don’t want to jeopardize what could be a criminal investigation. We’re not leaving any option off the table at this point.”
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the Secret Service will take appropriate action once the review is completed.
“The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line everyday to protect us. They are heroes and they have the full confidence of the president of the United States,” Shapiro said.
The Salahis lawyer, Paul Gardner, posted a comment on their Facebook page saying, “My clients were cleared by the White House, to be there.” He said more information would be forthcoming.
Several messages left at Gardner’s law firm on Friday were not immediately returned.
Bravo Media has confirmed that Michaele Salahi is being considered as a participant in the upcoming “The Real Housewives of D.C.” program and on the day of the dinner was being filmed around Washington by Half Yard Productions, the producer of the program.
“Half Yard Productions was told by Michaele and Tareq Salahi that they had been invited to the State Dinner. We took them at their word and filmed their preparations for the event. Half Yard Productions had no part in planning their presence at the event,” said Abby Greensfelder of Half Yard Productions.
Photos on the couple’s Facebook page they previously had gotten close to Obama. One photo, apparently taken in the days before Obama took the oath of office, shows the Salahis in a group shot with Obama and some of the musicians who performed at an inaugural concert.
Other photos show the Salahis in the empty, glass-enclosed box from which the Obamas watched the concert and, according to the caption, “backstage with the Secret Service at the Lincoln Memorial during the Presidential Inauguration.”
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
Tags: Asia, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Celebrity, Criminal Investigations, District Of Columbia, Facebook, Inaugurations, India, Law Enforcement, Manmohan Singh, Music, North America, Reality Tv, South Asia, United States, Washington