NEWS

"Crashergate" Fiasco Expected to Raise Security at the White House

By Matthew Harwood

The antics of a fame-seeking couple who crashed President Obama's first state dinner will likely lead to stricter security protocols for guests attending functions at the White House, experts and elected officials said.

"A tight system will be tightened even more," William H. Pickle Jr., a former Secret Service agent who led Al Gore's vice-presidential detail and headed Senate security from 2003 to 2007, told The Washington Post. "I would encourage the White House social office to buy umbrellas before the next event, because you can be sure the Secret Service will be doing their job, and it may be that visitors will be out there for a very long time."

On "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) compared the possible security aftershocks of Tareq and Michaele Salahi's partycrashing stunt to shoebomber Richard Reid.

"You know, these folks could be like the -- what is the name, Richard Reid, who changed the way everybody travels through the airports because of this one guy," Bayh said. "This couple may change the way people go to the White House."

Bayh along with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) have called for an investigation into how the Salahi's made it past layers of security and shook hands with President Obama, reports the Associated Press.

King, the ranking Republican on the House homeland security committee, warned "we can't show this type of weakness to terrorists, to psychopaths," reports Politico.

According to The New York Times, the Secret Services Office of Professional Responsibility is currently investigating what occurred last Tuesday night and will write a report. The report, however, will likely remain internal.

The security breach may draw attention to a "top-to-bottom" review of Secret Service security methods, The Washington Post reports. The review was initiated directly after the inauguration of President Obama, who took office "amid the highest threat level for any recent president," according to the Post. The finished product is expected soon.

Secret Service officials did defend their agency's record to the Post.

In fact, officials said the agency guarded those under its protection at 100 percent of 7,535 U.S. and overseas stops last year, screened twice as many people (4.2 million) in a precedent-shattering 2008 presidential campaign as it did in 2004, and properly looked after 116 foreign heads of state and 58 spouses.

But security is always a balancing act between sealing off every possible vulnerability and the actual risk that a gap will be exploited. Every president faces risks, whether by jumping out of a motorcade to shake hands at a rope line, as Bill Clinton liked to do, or by vacationing at a beach within telephoto-lens range of paparazzi, as Obama did on a post-election break in Hawaii.

Critics and defenders of the president's guards agree that the only assurance of complete security is to seal the president from the public. His advisers don't want that, however, so compromises are made -- as are mistakes.

And while the Salahis may have gotten their 15 minutes of fame, the couple may face criminal charges if Bayh and Kyl have their way.

"[Y]ou’ve got to send a strong deterrent that people just don’t do this kind of thing," Bayh told "Fox News Sunday."

"[I]f it’s a federal crime to lie to a federal agent, and these people didn’t tell the truth about their invitation, then they should be in some way brought to justice here, again, as an example to others not to do it," Kyl agreed.

UPDATE @ 1:15: The House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing Thursday on the White House security breach that occurred at last Tuesday's state dinner. Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) will call Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and the Salahis to testify on what he described as "a security breakdown."


♦ Photo by The White House/Flickr

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