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Third person gate-crashed White House dinner

While investigating the case of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who also attended without invitations, the Secret Service found video of a third person who had traveled with the Indian delegation.

January 05, 2010|By Kathleen Hennessey

Reporting from Washington — The Secret Service acknowledged Monday that a third person attended the White House gala for India's prime minister in November without an invitation.

The agency made the discovery as it investigated how Michaele and Tareq Salahi, Virginia socialites and aspiring reality TV contestants, made it past security to attend the event.

The third interloper traveled from a hotel with members of the Indian delegation, the Secret Service said in a statement, which was released after the incident had been reported on Newsmax.com.

The person bypassed one level of White House security, the statement said. Unlike other members of the Indian group, the person was not cleared through the Secret Service system that runs background checks on White House visitors. But, like the Salahis, the person was subject to other screening measures on the night of the event.

"This individual went through all required security measures along with the rest of the official delegation at the hotel," the agency said. "At present, there is nothing to indicate that this individual went through the receiving line or had contact with the president or first lady."

The Justice Department is investigating whether any laws were broken. No charges have been filed in either dinner-crashing incident, said Ben Friedman, a spokesman for the D.C. U.S. attorney's office.

The revelation is the latest embarrassment for the agency charged with guarding the president. The Secret Service has been the object of criticism and mockery since it learned of the Salahis' exploits via Michaele Salahi's Facebook page.

The Salahis, who had been vying for spots on Bravo's upcoming reality series "The Real Housewives of D.C.," posted White House photos of themselves with Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, among others. They have said they believed they had an e-mail invitation but have refused to testify before Congress.

The third interloper's existence was first reported Monday on Newsmax by journalist Ronald Kessler. During their investigation of the Salahis' admittance, he wrote, agents watched videotape of the event and matched images to names on the guest list, but one man could not be matched to the list.

The man's identity has not been released.

"Procedural changes have already been implemented to address foreign delegations under the responsibility of Department of State who are entering facilities secured by the Secret Service," the agency's statement said.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told the House Homeland Security Committee last month that human error was to blame for the Salahis' admittance. Asked if the Salahis were the only crashers at the dinner, Sullivan said he could comment in detail only in a closed hearing.

"But I believe that I can satisfy you in explaining that there were no other people there that night that should not" have been there, he said.

Kessler wrote that the review of videotapes occurred after Sullivan's testimony.

A spokesman for the House panel said it had been in contact with the Secret Service on Monday and was expecting more information.

khennessey@tribune.com

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