December 3, 2009
Posted: 02:33 PM ET
(CNN) - The director of the U.S. Secret Service acknowledged to a House committee Thursday that "appropriate procedures were not followed" when an apparently uninvited Virginia couple entered the White House before a state dinner last week.
Mark Sullivan, testifying at a Homeland Security Committee hearing, said a preliminary investigation has been completed, and the guards involved have been placed on administrative leave with pay.
"I regret ... that established protocols and procedure were not followed," he said. He called the breach that occurred at the White House entry checkpoint unacceptable and indefensible.
The couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, contend that they did not crash the dinner to honor India's prime minister. The White House has said they were not invited.
The Salahis didn't accept an invitation to testify at the hearing. The panel also invited White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers to appear, but committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said the White House indicated Wednesday that she wouldn't. Rogers' office planned the dinner.
"If the Salahis are absent from [Thursday's] hearing, the committee is prepared to move forward with subpoenas to compel their appearance," Thompson said Wednesday.
The lawmaker said he didn't see a reason for Rogers to testify, because the hearing was focusing on security issues.
"There were undeniable planning and execution failures of the entire Secret Service apparatus," he added.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Peter King of New York, said he wanted subpoenas issued for the couple and Rogers, forcing them to appear.
According to Sullivan, the Secret Service guard at the initial checkpoint should have called someone at the White House when he noticed that the couple was not on the guest list. Instead, he waved them through. The guest list is prepared by the White House and vetted by the Secret Service, Sullivan said.
At one point during the hearing, a staffer raised a poster-sized photo of Michaele Salahi posing with Vice President Joe Biden.
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