Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

White House gate-crashers: A waste of time

Posted by sanityinjection on December 10, 2009

I’ve been resisting writing about this because I’ve been hoping it would go away. But it hasn’t. I am of course referring to the #1 news story of the century, the successful attempt by Tareq and Michaele Salahi to crash a White House party to which they were not invited.

I am flabbergasted by the amount of attention this incident has received – not from the media, whose warped priorities I am familiar with, but from Congress. The latest nonsense? The Salahis have been subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Wait a minute, you ask. Isn’t this a serious security issue that needs to be addressed? In fact, no. What everyone seems to be failing to understand is that the President, First Lady, and their distinguished guests were at no time in any danger as a result of this incident. People are acting as if checking to see if someone was on the guest list was the only security measure in place for the event. In fact, the Salahis, like every other guest at the function, had to go through a series of security checks – identity verification, body scans etc. – to make sure that they were not a danger. The Salahis passed these checks precisely because they were not terrorists and not carrying weapons. They were exactly who they said they were, and they were there to attend the function just like all the other guests. Had they been “evil-doers”, they would have been caught by the measures in place.

When you remove the security element, what you are left with is a simple case of unwanted guests. This does not require a Congressional investigation! Sure, the Secret Service and the White House Social Office should overhaul their procedures to make sure that future uninvited guests are not allowed to annoy the Obamas. But again, that is not a security issue. It is, however, an opportunity for self-important, posturing blowhard legislators to kick up a fuss and try to attract attention to themselves.

The subpoenas are even more ridiculous because the Salahis are guaranteed to invoke their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and will refuse to answer questions. So they will get to sit there on TV – and remember, getting on TV was their main goal to begin with – and waste Congress’ time and the taxpayers’ money.

It’s time to drop this nonsense. If Congress wants to hold hearings into a  scandal, how about investigating Climategate? Now there’s a deception that could actually have serious consequences.

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6 Responses to “White House gate-crashers: A waste of time”

  1. There is one big angle in this story that would make it relevant, but hasn’t really been discussed in main stream media. There was a foreign president at that party! I have to imagine that there are going to be a few foreign dignitaries who might be a bit more hesitant before accepting any future White House invitations. Now, I don’t think anyone would actually turn one down, but we should be embarrassed that we failed in providing security for our nation’s guests.

    • I don’t really see that as relevant. A foreign President’s security is no more important than that of our own President; if he was not in danger, neither was the visiting head of state. Keep in mind, Presidents meet and shake hands with strangers in crowds all the time; in those situations, just as in this one, there are many security measures in place to protect them, whether they are visible or not. My whole point is that this incident does not represent a significant breakdown in White House or Presidential security.

      To provide a metaphor, imagine you go through security at the airport, and the TSA checks your ID, screens the items you are carrying, and puts you through the metal detector, all of which tests you pass. What they forget to do is verify that you have a boarding pass, which you don’t. You have no vaild reason to be at the gate, but you are not a danger because you passed the other security checks.

      • Imagine if instead of B-list socialites, they were Pakistani nationals bent on intimidating the Indian president.

        If you think that sounds far-fetched, during the cold war, Russia would occasionally disguise KGB agents as tourists and plant them in places where major politicians would be. They wouldn’t be armed, but they would be trained in how to ask questions that be difficult for the politicians to answer. They were basically armed with rhetoric, and used American news crews (just doing their job by filming politicians talking to people) to create propaganda. There’s a photo from one of these incidents that looks a whole lot like Putin.

      • Pakistani nationals bent on intimidating the Indian president wouldn’t have passed the identity check and would have failed to gain entry. The point is that the Salahis succeeded precisely because they were no threat.

        As for the idea of people asking politicians difficult questions – whatever their intent – qualifying as a security threat, that notion seems to me to be incompatible with representative democracy.

  2. What identity check? The reason the gate crashers was a story is that there was no identity check. I’m sure they had ID, but that doesn’t tell security much about who you are, just a name.

    And I didn’t mean just hard questions, but questions that are designed to create an embarrassing situation. The point is that people can try to sneak in more than just physical weapons.

    • The process of gaining entry to the White House is more complex than you think – there are multiple layers of checks. The Salahis, like all guests that night, had their IDs run through a computer to verify that the persons on those IDs actually exist and didn’t have any associations that would raise a possible security risk. Keep in mind you are not dealing with some nightclub doorman here – this is the Secret Service we are talking about, and they have resources like you have no idea. Had it been as simple as you suggest, then of course we’d have a national security issue.

      As I explained, the Salahis succeeded precisely because they were not a threat and thus were able to pass all the security checks. The only failure was that they were believed when they said they were on the guest list, even though they were not. But the guest list isn’t Secret Service’s job, it’s the White House Social Office. Since no one from that office was there to challenge the Salahis’ assertion that they were on it, Secret Service let it go rather than risk pissing off an important FOO (Friend of Obama.) That’s the mistake they’re now being pilloried for.

      As for embarrassing questions – in a free society, those do not constitute a threat to national security.

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