White House security 'breached 91 times since 1980'
Tareq and Michaele Salahi may be the most famous gatecrashers in the world after they tricked their way into a state dinner presided over by President Obama last month. But they are by no means the first people to elude the Secret Service and breach White House security.
A secret report compiled by the Secret Service reveals security surrounding the US President has been breached at least 91 times since 1980, according to the Washington Post newspaper.
A summary of the report, compiled in 2003, along with descriptions to the newspaper of more recent breaches by federal homeland security officials, details scores of breaches including a family who were wrongly allowed into White House grounds in a minivan, a woman allowed into the ground despite already having falsely claimed a "special relationship" with former president Bill Clinton and a celebrity hunter who joined Harrison Ford's entourage to get near Mr Clinton.
The document, which is the most complete accounting of recent Secret Service security breakdowns, states that they expose significant gaps that could be exploited by would-be assassins and erode "one of the best tools for deterring future attempts" - the general belief that the White House is invulnerable.
A Secret Service official confirmed the authenticity of the unclassified document to the newspaper adding that it had been used to train agents and officers in an effort to improve agency operations.
"This document reflects a proactive attempt to evaluate our security and obviously raises the awareness of uniformed division officers and agents about their jobs," spokesman Edwin Donovan said. "We have to be concerned about the threats to our protectees at all times, whether at the White House or away from the White House."
After the Salahi's appearance at a state dinner for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohar Singh, when three uniformed officers let the glamorous couple pass through the gates without checking their names were on a guest list, an embarassed Secret Service launched a criminal investigation into the couple and an internal review of security procedures.
The historical list of perimeter breaches indicates that intruders have reached the president or another person under Secret Service protection eight times since 1980, including the Salihis, the Post reports. Four of the incidents involved the same man.
The review was commissioned in 2001 by the then Secret Service diirector Brian Stafford after the service was humiliated for a third time by the most notorious presidential gate-crasher, Richard C. Weaver, who evaded inauguration security to shake George W. Bush's hand. Mr Weaver, a California minister, had previously infiltrated a 1991 prayer breakfast attended by then-President George H.W. Bush, and Mr Clinton's 1997 inaugural luncheon.
"I believe God makes me invisible to the security, undetectable," said Mr Weaver, whose methods included manipulating others to obtain tickets, telling guards he was lost or looking for a bathroom, and generally "appearing as [if] you are supposed to be there," the Secret Service report states.
Other breaches include - a stowaway who travelled with the White House press corps without credentials for two days from South Africa to Uganda in 2003, causing Air Force One to be searched when he claimed to have weapons; a pilot who was killed when he crashed a small plane on the White House grounds in 1994 and a man who was arrested that same year after he fired 29 rounds from a semi-automatic rifle toward the mansion from outside the perimeter fence.
Less serious breaches include one in 1982 dubbed "The Family Outing," when James Imes, his wife and two sons drove to the White House in a minivan, honked their horn and were let on to the grounds; and another in 1987 when Christian Hughes - nicknamed "The Paper Boy" - drove through an open White House gate in January 1987 because an officer assumed he was a deliveryman. At the North Porch, Mr Hughes gave a second unsuspecting officer a pair of handcuffs, asked to see the chief of staff, then drove past additional posts before he was stopped.
In November 1994, celebrity hunter Stephan Winick joined actor Harrison Ford's entourage in a lift as the group was escorted through metal detectors to meet President Clinton at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles.
The report notes that one third of the intruders had cased their targets beforehand, more than four in 10 were previously known to federal agencies, eight had announced their intent, and three were subjects of Secret Service investigations.
A notorious example of the latter was Mary D'Aiuto, 27, who was known to agents as someone who believed she had a relationship with Mr Clinton and repeatedly had tried to contact him.Despite this, she was able to get on the White House lawn during the 1998 Easter Egg Roll and was photographed repeatedly.
The only assailant to injure a president in the past three decades was John W. Hinckley Jr., who shot and wounded Ronald Reagan in 1981 from outside the security perimeter established by the Secret Service.
The only assailant to injure a president in the past three decades was John Hinckley, who shot and wounded Ronald Reagan in 1981 from outside the security perimeter.