Tereq and Michaele Salahi now infamous household names for their shocking gate crash at the Obama’s first state dinner; by now everyone knows this couple as potential attention seekers possibly looking to solidify their chances at a reality show. While law makers and White House officials all weigh in on the unwanted excitement and try to figure out what happened and while the secret service falls on its sword, so to speak, saying it is their job and theirs alone to protect the president, all that seems to be going on is a massive amount of finger pointing to the guard who waved them in to the White House social secretary to a Pentagon official with whom the Salahi’s reportedly traded e-mails about getting invited to the dinner. Some want to see this couple put behind bars as a deterrent to members of the public not to try the same stunt; others are more security focused, interested in knowing how two people not on the guest list got so close to the president and making sure it doesn’t happen again.
Amid reports of the Salahi’s are in essence selling their story to the highest bidder, only willing to speak for the right price, finally breaking their silence on the Today Show and amid the congressional hearing about the incident they made headlines by not attending, what is astounding is the break down in communication. As one official said to news outlets this happened because someone didn’t pick up the phone and verify them; another seemed to publicly wag their finger at the social secretary saying it was a real job not just the perks. However not only is the breakdown a sign of what we see in too many highly important places like our government, it goes deeper than getting signals and wires crossed. It is indicative of what many think happened in the Bush administration concerning the Iraq war, 9/11 and other key issues; not only that but communication breakdowns like this one are seen all over America in high risk and highly consequential situations. From the pilots who flew over 100 miles past their destination to the gap in the justice system that let a man out on bail who only days later shot and killed 4 Washington police officers, poor communication is becoming a dangerous sign of the times.
While the pilots may have fallen asleep or been distracted with banned electronic devices as they say and the alleged cop killer with a commuted sentence would have been stopped if only the judge had known of his recent record, the White House incident is a far bigger communication issue, not only because of where it is but how simple it should have been to prevent. Why wasn’t the guard at the gate given specific instructions that if they are not on the guest list, if they did not have a printed invitation, they do not get in. Why did he think they would be verified at another checkpoint? We live in an age of instant communication internet, cellphones, blackberries; why didn’t he know that when they weren’t on the list he should check with the White House social secretary, who may have been at another checkpoint verifying other guests. Before anyone talks about putting the Salahis in jail they should be talking about these things; no one can gate crash something on their own and if security had been what it was supposed to be they would have been turned away at the gate. Before anyone talks about putting the Salahis in jail they should talk about that guard and whoever was giving out security instructions keeping their jobs.
And what about their claim that they indeed were invited what about alluded to information that they say the public will be shocked to find out; what about their references to how much detail went into this alleged invitation? What about the e-mail correspondence between them and a Pentagon official about the possibility of the Salahis getting said invitation? For the record that official stated to the media that they were not invited and that the official told the couple they did not have the authority to authorize such an invitation. But did the Salahis know that, or did communication fail again? Did they honesty think they were going to be on the guest lists? All of these are questions that need answering before a decision is made about the Salahis.
As for the security risk, it is obvious that this couple poses little threat to the president, that they are likely fame seekers who wanted to be part of something prestigious and important. But it is a risk nonetheless as it exposes a huge hole in White House security that someone could get that close to the president even posing for pictures; if they can get close enough for that, they could get close enough to inflict bodily harm. It seems as if security personnel need to be told this is the White House not Random House, that this is security for the leader of the free world not the local nightclub. It was one thing for the guard to wave them past one checkpoint, but what happened at checkpoint number two? What’s more appalling is the secret service testimony that they only found out about the breach, when they discovered the Salahi’s Facebook page showcasing pictures of them at the event. It is also appalling that those conducting the hearings intend to open a criminal investigation regarding the Salahis and that republicans call it stonewalling that the White House social secretary did not show up either, the administration citing executive privilege. News outlets compare this evocation to the ones dealing with Whitewater under Clinton or the sudden firings under George W Bush, yet it seems this one was done in an effort to make sure the social secretary could continue doing their job unhindered by hearings.
Republicans apparently blame the social secretary for not having someone from the social office there to verify guests, as had been done in the past; however, the social office is not what failed here. The social office had nothing to do with the guards, now on suspension, who waved them through; many times with a new administration small things are changed to the president’s liking. This is no different, and it isn’t as if no one from the social office was available, simply they were never called and asked about the Salahis. Further no one in that office had anything to do with the secret service’s late finding of a security breach. Congressional hearings should be focused on security procedures, more importantly why none of those put in place were followed White House security needs to clean house before it worries about filing charges on the Salahis and before it has more than the Salahis to worry about.