Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 27, 2009

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? The Secret Service Challenge

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on November 27, 2009

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued the  statement below today in response to reports that Virginia couple Michaele and Tareq Salahi attended Tuesday’s White House State Dinner, despite the fact that they allegedly did not have invitations.  According to the statement, the Secret Service’s internal investigation determined that “established protocols” were not followed at the “initial checkpoint” to determine whether the individuals were on the guest list.  The statement also stated that the individuals still went through the magnetometers and others levels of screening.  The Secret Service took responsibility for the event, noting that the “failing is ours.”

The Secret Service and Director Sullivan deserve credit for taking responsibility for the situation, however the facts may play out.  As I noted in a post last month, the Secret Service is an agency that is underfunded, overwhelmed, and in need of more resources and personnel.  With just 3,200 Special Agents and 1,300 Uniformed Division Officers, there is certainly a need to plus up its national efforts. (I still maintain that the Department of Homeland Security should explore merging the Federal Protection Service, which recently moved over to the National Protection & Programs Directorate, with the Uniformed Division in light of the similar mission of the two entities though that is a different issue than the one discussed herein).

With regards to the State Dinner fiasco, there is a delicate balance that the Secret Service must maneuver for major events.  For regular White House visits, people visiting have to be pre-cleared through the WAVES system, presenting identification upon confirmation that they are on the WAVES list.  Reporters, with permanent White House credentials have a different process.

For major events, the Secret Service is often tasked with quickly checking photo IDs of VIPs, many of whom are certainly not used to being asked who they are, against a printed list.  Once checked, the guests, often dressed up to the nines in tuxedos and evening gowns (as in Tuesday’s incident), are shuffled through a magnetometer.  Assuming that is the scenario that played out on Tuesday, it should not be surprising that the Salahis – dressed for the part and used to circulating in power-broker (or wanna-be power-broker) circles – slipped through the gates and onto the red carpet.  Based on past observations of White House events, it is safe to say the printed lists are not always perfect or foolproof and that invitees whose names do not appear properly or at all can be frustrated and difficult – making the jobs of the Secret Service much more difficult.

That does not, however, excuse the failings of Tuesday night, especially considering that the Salahis managed to get their picture taken with Vice President Biden and allegedly met President Obama in the receiving line.  If protocols were not followed  then the Secret Service will need to determine the  action(s) to be taken, whether they be criminal charges against the couple, disciplining the officers involved, and/or taking other appropriate steps to assure that such an incident does not occur again.  The agency should also be allowed and encouraged to put in place processes that are more sophisticated than those used by bouncers at elite night clubs, even if VIPs and others have to be turned away at the White House gate.  What should not happen, however, is increased bashing of the Secret Service to gain political points or push an agenda of moving the Secret Service out of DHS.  If anything, Tuesday’s incident further demonstrates the need to shore up the Secret Service.

Statement by Director Mark Sullivan

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Comment by christopher tingus

November 28, 2009 @ 11:30 am

How dare that the Secret Service as well as any other protective agency or US soldier fail to have proper training and financial budgetary support at a time when factions of the Muslim community as well as some – within – aggressively threaten the well being of this great Republic….”No nation under God” has done such wondrous things for so many as the only beacon of hope to so, so many amongst the treacherous evil doers seeking their personal agenda versus the good of mankind, yet seeing elected officials like Pelosi-Reed-Frank throw the Constitution to the side is quite worrisome and in some context, treason demanding a Congressional Hearing!

Furthermore, while it is our responsibility to afford whatever safety measures appropriate to all “entrusted” elected public servants whether we abhor or care for the likes of folks as Pelosi, Reed and Barney Frank for example, again, individuals with an evident distaste for our Constitution and an agenda where citizens are given far less freedom.

Let’s not forget to prioritize the folks at the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and so many other agencies and public safety officials on the streets who need monies to protect us from those outside as well as within, even from the government itself!

While the “uninvited” guests may deem the White House their house as well and may have some justification in their perception, this was an “invitation only state dinner” and they can surely understand the concerns officials and we all have in their portrayal on global television…

Yes, this couple – what are their names again – yes, they have now made invaluable contribution as – protectors of those in the executive office they posed with on their facebook and CNN – for security will assuredly be more imposing as it should especially at this time of War despite the President’s kind words in Cairo, however when will we have a grasp on what is important to us on Main Street USA not those at the Federal Reserve who go unaudited or their central banker cohorts who have cast the world in peril with economic and political poilicies which have impoverished so many more….

Despite your empty election promies, the jobless grow, the deficit grows exponentially and you, sir, fail to attentively listen to our Creator in this Judeo-Christian founded nation who conveyed – simple instruction – and unless this administration and the one that follows after your first term as well as the numerous Congressional members who will be voted out of office as well, this bi-partisan effort to bankrupt us will have succeeded and once again the darkness of mankind and the dastardlt deeds of those seeking our demise will befall everyone!

We need a strong Civil Defense agency…We need our frontline “soldiers” in our agencies and local respected first responders funded…not these unacceptable closings of fire stations and personnel though a wage/salary freeze may be in order, not just on Wall Street for local government cannot fund these substantial pensions and extended retirement healthcare.

Mr. President, let’s not forget about the ramp up of Chinese espionage and especially the efforts of the Russians in their cybersecurity daily attacks…I believe new legislation should include such actions as an Act of War so that those ordering such cyber attacks understand the ramifications of their actions against this nation!

It is worthy to note that with all the kids I see with their DS and Wii, our adversaries should be aware of the cyber enlightenment our next generation and they should bolster their own computers for we will be reciprocating in large numbers!

The bottomline, while communications – within – among those who need to communicate has improved sine 911, let’s get our priorities straightened out for this smiling couple depicted with you Mr. President and you, Mr. Vice-President may very well have saved your Life for the unimaginable was seen by all of us and as a well seasoned senior international business development type who sat in the boardroom from time to time, seldom does one have a second chance afforded to remedy such an unacceptable breach in security….

Eight years later, from one poliitical party to the next, instead of more troops, let the Afghans fight over their own stone walls for they have been doing it far longer than we have even existed as a nation. Both poliitical parties have bankrupted this country and aer quickly impoverishing most of us on Main Street USA.

Time is of the essence. The Biblical and historical pages are turning quickly and it is obvious that the void of leadership, self-agenda and blatant corruption from here to every capital around the globe will fail us and while many do repent, the only solution is to admit the injustices and clasp hands together. I do hope mankind will never be able to permanently reside outside our sphere, for his/her corruption and self-grandiose should never be allowed beyond our polluted and tarnished environment!

Meery Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
Harwich, MA 02645 USA


Comment by christopher tingus

November 29, 2009 @ 1:48 am

As a follow up, the Secret Service surely has its hands full as threats to you Mr. President are said to be four fold since your election –

The “uninvited guests” this past week point to unacceptable intel and communications which to us here on Main Street USA cause great alarm….

If it is neecssary Mr. President, while you address the scenario which led to this failed security net where we expect that you will be safeguarded at every turn of the corner, per this formal request to you, Sir, as – a natural born US citizen with birth certificate in hand –

I, Christopher Tingus of Harwich (Cape Cod, MA USA)ask you Mr. President to request Congress to convene, within 60 days, a Congressional Hearing and ensuing discussions pertaining to the “treasoness” actions in which Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reed and Barney Frank are knowingly leading this already bankrupt nation into a healthcare reform which will cost us monies we just do not have….impoverish many more after its adoption and implementation and as importantly, we the people do not want such “treason” to go unchallenged!

If elected officials including you Sir are truly representing the people of these proud United States, then you will allow the final Healthcare Reform package to be presented as a National Question posed to us to allow all Americans to vote yea or nay….

God Bless this Republic and its worthy and most charitable citizenry!

Christopher Tingus
Cape Cod, Massachusetts 02545 USA

Comment by Arnold Bogis

November 29, 2009 @ 1:57 am

I would be interested in your connection between your previous Secret Service post with this incident. How did the need to focus on financial investigations as well as protection factor in this case? How was the investigator background helpful in protecting the White House?

Just curious as you mentioned your previous idea about pulling out the uniformed members of the Service, but not how keeping financial investigation in DHS and not Treasury should help strengthen the protection mission. It seems to me that no one was suggesting the entire Service be taken out of DHS, but just that the financial investigations be returned to Treasury.

Comment by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan

November 29, 2009 @ 9:56 am

Hi Arnold,
Remember that this incident apparently involved the Uniformed Division – which is separate than the Special Agent dual mission that the earlier post focused on. You’ll note that the current post references the breakdown in staffing #s between the two ranks. If you recall, my previous post spent some time discussing how the investigative mission tasked to the Special Agent ranks reinforce the protective mission of those ranks. That is not affected by this past week’s incident. The premise, however, made in the previous post that the Secret Service should be fully- resourced remains true for the current post – regardless of which division or mission we are talking about. (Also, note that both posts touch upon whether the Uniformed Division should be merged with FPS — that issue also deserves some exploration).

Comment by Clinton J. Andersen

November 29, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

In other news, the agents assigned to the “initial checkpoint” have been reassigned to Guarding Tess.

I agree, it is nice to see an agency who takes on responsibility instead of just pointing fingers.

Comment by econobiker

November 30, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

The irony lost on most people was how attending reporters/journalists mentioned that the gate crashers were “no bodies” or “not known”.

This further re-inforces the issue of that there are “the insiders” and “the outsiders” and most US citizens can be considered outsiders to those in government power. These citizens will never be invited to any event that is more than a “photo-op” or as a “special interest example” even though they diligently pay taxes for their entire life.

I actually root for them as showing the political b.s. filter and that anyone “politician” or “money man” looking enough dressed in a tux and accompanied by a ~good looking~ thin blonde woman can get through security. Isn’t this similar to the guy who greeted several presidents on inauguration day and gave them a religious coin? That the guy looked conservative and politician looking got him through the security.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 30, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

This “stunt” is a disaster for the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service. Obama now realizes how really unprotected he is while conducting his office. My guess is that this could be the straw that broke the camel’s back and now even the President and his wife will be concerned on what odds he faces daily. We do know that we are up against religious zealots that have no regard for human life or their own lifes. Not the first time for the US but certainly a chilling fact in weighing what is needed to protect the holder of the highest office. Afraid the cocoon must be wrapped much tighter.

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