White House changing policy in wake of crashers

Security being tightened after flap over uninvited guests at state dinner

Published December 3, 2009 2:20AM (EST)

As Mike Madden wrote in this space yesterday, the blame the White House has been getting over aspiring reality stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashing last week's state dinner isn't really fair. White House staffers aren't ultimately responsible for deciding who gets in and who doesn't; that's up to the Secret Service.

But in a memo sent to staffers, and released to the public, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina took some of the responsibility onto his team's shoulders. He also put in place new guidelines, with the goal of ensuring that breaches like this one don't happen again.

"After reviewing our actions, it is clear that the White House did not do everything we could have done to assist the United States Secret Service in ensuring that only invited guests enter the complex. White House staff were walking back and forth outside between the check points helping guests and were available to the Secret Service throughout the evening, but clearly we can do more, and we will do more," Messina wrote.

He went on to list this new set of policies that will go into effect immediately and cover all official White House events:

  • White House staff will be stationed physically at the check points with the United States Secret Service.
  • Guests will be checked off of the list by White House staff and the Secret Service will continue to ensure that all guests have been properly cleared before entering the White House.
  • Guests whose names are not on the guest list will be assisted by White House staff present at the check point for appropriate resolution.
  • As always, the Secret Service will provide security and remain ultimately responsible for controlling access to the White House complex.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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