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Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Gatecrashers prompt White House to tighten security

The couple met US President Barack Obama at the White House state dinner
The White House photo shows Mrs Salahi shaking hands with Mr Obama

The White House is to enforce new rules to monitor official events after a couple gatecrashed a state dinner and met US President Barack Obama.

The White House said its own staff would work alongside Secret Service agents at such events from now on.

Virginia socialite couple Michaele and Tareq Salahi were allowed to attend the event despite not having invitations.

The pair are reported to have declined to appear at a congressional hearing on the incident, due on Thursday.

In a statement, the White House appeared to be taking some of the blame for the security breach.

"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 Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina said.

Facebook photos

The incident, which is reported to have angered President Obama, has drawn a rare public apology from the Secret Service which said it was "concerned and embarrassed".

The White House has refused to send its social secretary to the congressional committee to testify on the dinner.

The Salahis too have declined to attend, despite invitations.

The committee's chairman, Bennie Thompson, is reported to be considering issuing subpoenas to force the pair to attend, Reuters news agency reports.

According to the couple's publicist, the Salahis have already provided the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee with statements and emails between themselves and a Pentagon official whom they pressed for tickets.

A Secret Service investigation found the couple should not have been allowed in.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi went through security checkpoints at the dinner hosted by Mr Obama and later posted photos of themselves on Facebook.



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