- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The White House has changed its policy for invitation-only parties and will now station staffers from its social office at guest entrance gates to make sure no uninvited people are admitted, first lady Michelle Obama’s communications director Camille Johnston said.

The change comes one week after a Virginia couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, gained entrance into a state dinner hosted by President Obama, whom they ended up meeting face to face. The Social Office did not have staffers at the gates during that party.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said there was never a plan to have such staffers there to check guests off the list for the Nov. 24 state dinner, attended by more than 300 guests in honor of visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Social Office staffers were available to the Secret Service throughout the evening, but were not stationed full-time at the entrance gates.

Mr. Donovan said he did not know if the Secret Service, which has taken full blame for admitting the couple, had requested that the White House change its policy.

The new policy comes just in time for the White House holiday season, which kicked off Tuesday night. Some 50,000 guests will attend 17 holiday parties and 11 open houses over the coming weeks, and many will have their pictures taken with the president and first lady.

“Social Office staff will be present to continue to assist guests and the United States Secret Service should any confusion arise,” Miss Johnston said. “As always, the United States Secret Service will provide security and will control who has access to the White House grounds.”

President and Mrs. Obama were described Tuesday as angered by the incident. The Salahis asked a national television audience Tuesday morning to take their word that they were invited to the gala event.

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