A bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, no? The Secret Service says that guests to future White House events had better bring umbrellas on rainy evenings, because they will take their time in the future in confirming invitations rather than expedite waiting times — the situation that created an opening for two embarrassing but thankfully innocuous party crashers at a state dinner last week. The Washington Post takes a bit of credit for exposing them — but also an unnecessarily hysterical tone over presidential security:
The bizarre breach at the White House state dinner last week lends new urgency to a review of Secret Service procedures that was begun after President Obama’s inauguration, and threatens to revive questions about how much security is enough for the country’s elected leader.
A senior Secret Service official said a “top-to-bottom” review of the agency’s protective department was ordered shortly after Obama began his term amid the highest threat level for any recent president. The results are due soon, said spokesman James Mackin.
The highest for any President? The US prosecuted a man in Virginia for seriously plotting George W. Bush’s assassination (and convicted him). Ahmed Omar Abu Ali also got convicted of providing material support to al-Qaeda. Perhaps they’re tracking that kind of threat at the moment against Barack Obama, but I’d call an operational AQ plot to assassinate a President a very high threat level indeed.
But who blew the whistle on the party crashers? Surprisingly, the Post says it was their reporter:
A source who had spoken to senior Secret Service officials said the Salahis were allowed inside in violation of agency policies by an officer outside the front gate who apparently was persuaded by the couple’s manner and insistence as well as the pressure of keeping lines moving on a rainy evening.
“Rather than stand there and get wet, he went ahead and let them go,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid offending his contacts.
Once inside, the couple were identified by a Washington Post reporter, who asked two White House staffers early in the evening about their absence from the guest list and raised the issue with them in an 11 p.m. e-mail. A report on what occurred that night — including their movements inside the White House — is expected in a matter of days.
But this part of Michael Shear and Spencer Hsu’s report is just silly:
But Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia couple who waltzed, uninvited, into the White House and shook hands with Obama on Tuesday night provided new evidence that in a democracy, it is far from impossible to breach the bubble of security around the chief executive.
What does “democracy” have to do with it? We could be a communist people’s republic with Pol Pot running security, and if guards don’t take the time to check the invitation list, you’ll still get crashers at state dinners. People on the queue outside the White House didn’t vote to allow the Salahis into the party. They didn’t vote for rain, either, or to let security off the hook for doing their job. Someone should be out looking for a new job, and I’m going to bet that someone won’t save the one he had last week by giving the Secret Service a discourse on democracy.
Besides, it’s apparently not the first time the Salahis have met Barack Obama. According to Canada Free Press and the American Power blog, the Salahis met Obama at a 2005 event hosted by Tariq Salahi, the America’s Polo Cup pre-event party:
So were they at the state dinner by invitation after all? The Secret Service says no, but they hardly crashed the 2005 event. Read more about Salahi’s interesting political background at Talking Points Memo. Would a lobbyist for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have been invited but his name kept off the official list? That might explain the supposed security breach better than just a rainy night, or democracy.
Update: TPM link fixed.