- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday called for the couple who crashed President Obama’s first state dinner and the director of the Secret Service to testify at a full committee hearing this week on the security breach at the gala White House event.

“This is a time for answers,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, who is chairman of the committee. “This is not the time for political games or scapegoating to distract our attention from the careful oversight we must apply to the Secret Service and its mission.”

Mr. Thompson invited the Virginia couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to appear at the hearing scheduled for Thursday. Invitations to testify are rarely declined, and the committee could compel testimony with a subpoena.

Some lawmakers have called for criminal charges against Mr. and Mrs. Salahi, who apparently were angling for a reality-television-show appearance, for strolling through security checks and into the state dinner to mingle with high-ranking officials and dignitaries at the White House last week. Although the pair shook hands with President Obama and mingled with other top officials before leaving, the Secret Service has yet to press charges.

RELATED STORY: Senators want party crashers punished

Mr. Thompson said it was imperative that the committee get the full story about security deficiencies at the White House and learn what remedies are being applied to “ensure the strength of the Secret Service and the safety of those under its protection.”

“The intent of this administration may be openness and transparency, but a security breakdown that allowed anyone who looked the part to walk off the street into a state dinner is a slap in the face to the Secret Service employees who put their lives on the line to protect our form of government and its leaders,” Mr. Thompson said.

Mahogany Jones, a spokeswoman for the couple, said “the Salahis are not ‘shopping’ any interviews or demanding money from any media networks to tell their story. We repute these false allegations and demand that this adverse, inaccurate information cease immediately. At this time, the Salahis are not making any formal comments and are not making any arrangements to speak with press/media.

“The Salahis are not appearing on Larry King tonight as they are not talking to any media forms at this time.”

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