Published November 27, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service maintains that President Barack Obama was never in danger at a state dinner after an uninvited Virginia couple got through security, but it wouldn't comment on whether anyone is screened for radiological or biological weapons.
Edwin Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, said Thursday the agency doesn't discuss the levels of security screening at the White House.
Donovan had said earlier that Michaele and Tareq Salahi went through the same security screening for weapons as the 300-plus people invited to the dinner Tuesday for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Michaele Salahi's hairdresser at the Georgetown salon where she scheduled a last-minute appointment hours before the dinner said she asked to look at the invitation to the White House event, but never saw it.
"She was so excited. She told me that she got it in the mail and it was just an amazing feeling and they couldn't wait and in fact they called the White House, I believe, to make sure that she was going to be dressed appropriately," Peggy Ioakim told CBS' "The Early Show" on Friday. Salahi wore a red sari to the dinner.
Bravo Media, meanwhile, confirmed that on the day of the dinner Michaele Salahi was being filmed around Washington and while she prepared for the dinner by a film crew connected with the network's reality show, "The Real Housewives of D.C.," because she is being considered for the upcoming TV program.
"Half Yard's cameras were not inside the White House. They filmed the couple preparing for the event," Johanna Fuentes, Bravo Media's vice president, communications, said in an e-mail late Thursday. She said the Salahis "informed Half Yard that they were invited (to the dinner), the producers had no reason to believe otherwise."
Fuentes referred further questions to the Virginia couple's attorney and publicist.
The White House refused comment on the Salahis and referred all calls to the Secret Service.
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." He added the Secret Service 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 author added that it's unlikely the Secret Service performed the usual background check to ensure that the crashers were not possible threats.
"The party crashers could have had outstanding arrest warrants for murder. They could have been involved with terrorists. They could have been agents of Iran or North Korea. The Secret Service would never have known," he said.
Donovan said the officers at the checkpoint 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."
The Salahis 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 standing with prominent people at the event, including Vice President Joe Biden, they wrote: "A Sensational Night honoring India."
And this posting under a picture of Michaele with Biden: "OMG! SO EXCITING!!!!!! IRISH EYES ARE SMILING TOGETHER!"