Tags: us | state | dinner | uninvited | guests

Obama Dinner Crashers Could Face Charges

Thursday, 26 Nov 2009 02:51 PM

 

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WASHINGTON -- The couple who crashed a White House dinner shouldn't need legal help, an attorney who knows them said Thursday, as the Secret Service remained quiet publicly about the eye-catching security breach.

"They just went to a party. They didn't do anything wrong," Paul Morrison, a Virginia attorney who has represented Michaele and Tareq Salahi in the past, told The Associated Press.

A Secret Service investigation of the security breach, now under way, will help determine whether Morrison is right about the lack of legal liability. But the main focus was on the agency itself.

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Edward Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, acknowledged the officers at the checkpoint involved in clearance for the state dinner for visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not follow proper procedure when the Salahis arrived and it was determined they had not been invited.

But he declined to reveal anything the Secret Service knows about what happened next.

During President George W. Bush's administration, it was standard procedure to have someone from the White House social office at the gate for state dinners and other events with large groups of visitors, according to a former senior Bush aide who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to be seen as criticizing the Obama White House.

The social office is most knowledgeable about the guest list and could have been called in case of any uncertainty, this official said.

White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, asked by The AP on Thursday whether personnel from her office were at the checkpoint said, "We were not."

It was unclear whether the northern Virginia couple could be charged with trespassing or any other violation. But in his interview with The AP, Morrison said, "I know them. I'm unaware of any reason they need representation right now."

Morrison said he hasn't spoken to the Salahis since the incident.

President Barack Obama was never in any danger because the Salahis went through the same security screening for weapons as the 300-plus people actually invited to the dinner, Donovan said.

However Ronald Kessler, author of a book on the Secret Service, said, "While the couple did pass through a magnetometer to detect weapons, they could have assassinated the president or vice president using other means _ anthrax, for example. The additional security checks referred to by the Secret Service spokesman screen for such items as radiological contamination but would not detect secreted biological weapons."

Kessler, a journalist, wrote "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect."

The eventual winners in the incident could be the Salahis, who were being considered for the Bravo reality TV show "Real Housewives of D.C."

The couple bragged about their success on their Facebook page.

"Honored to be at the White House for the state dinner in honor of India with President Obama and our First Lady!" they wrote.

And, along with photos of the couple at the event, they wrote: "A Sensational Night honoring India."

And this posting under a picture of Michaele with Vice President Joe Biden: "OMG! SO EXCITING!!!!!! IRISH EYES ARE SMILING TOGETHER!"

It's not the first time crashers have gotten past presidential security.

Richard Weaver, a self-described Christian minister from California, wormed his way into President George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration and shook Bush's hand, repeating a stunt he pulled off at President Bill Clinton's 1997 inauguration.

"I don't have to push through and I never have to do any 'Mission Impossible'-type stunts," Weaver, nicknamed "Handshake Man" for his exploits, told The Associated Press after his 2001 Bush handshake.

"I see it as a miracle," Weaver told AP. "I believe God makes me invisible to the security, undetectable."

Weaver wasn't invisible at Bush's second inauguration. Security caught him attempting to crash the 2005 ceremony and he was barred from entering the White House or Capitol grounds for five years.

___

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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