Secret Service confirms third crasher at White House state dinner

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 5, 2010; A01

Another uninvited guest made it into the White House state dinner made famous by gate-crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Secret Service announced Monday -- exposing more holes in the security perimeter around President Obama.

Unlike the Salahis, this newly revealed crasher got into the White House with the official Indian delegation. Many of the key details have not been officially released: the man's name, how he came to be with the group of diplomats and how close he got to the president and first lady.

But a congressional source, who was granted anonymity to speak about the ongoing investigation into porous security at the White House, identified the man as Carlos Allen, a D.C. party promoter who runs an event space in Mount Pleasant. The source saw Allen's name in official e-mails and documents pertaining to the Secret Service probe. Allen, 39, did not respond Monday to repeated e-mails and phone messages. The Post spoke with him last month regarding a comment he made to a blogger about having attended the state dinner; in the brief exchange, he denied knowledge of anything to do with the dinner.

The Secret Service released its statement following a report by Ronald Kessler, a journalist who writes for Kessler reported that the agency discovered the third crasher after examining surveillance video of arriving guests and found one tuxedoed man who did not match any name on the guest list.

The White House declined to comment about the breach, although an administration official, who asked to speak without attribution, said the White House has known about the third crasher since mid-December.

"This individual went through all required security measures along with the rest of the official delegation at the hotel," according to a statement released by the Secret Service. "At present, there is nothing to indicate that this individual went through the receiving line or had contact with the President or first lady."

The incident began early the evening of Nov. 24 at the Willard Hotel, where the dinner's guest of honor, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and his delegation were staying. Singh traveled separately, while his entourage of diplomats gathered to be transported to the White House. The State Department was responsible for vetting the list of official delegation members, and the Secret Service sent agents to the hotel to screen them with magnetometers before they boarded the van.

At some point that day, a group of prominent Indian businessmen -- late additions to the dinner guest list -- were allowed to join the officials traveling from the Willard and taken along on the one-block drive. Kessler reports that the Indian Embassy had asked the State Department to ferry the executives to the White House -- an unusual request for guests visiting the United States in a nonofficial capacity. Allen, a U.S. citizen, was among the group of business leaders.

After boarding the van, the group was driven to the White House, dropped at an unidentified entrance and not subject to further screenings or checkpoints. Allen -- like the Salahis -- was free to mingle with administration officials and other VIPs at the cocktail reception, but slipped out before guests sat down for dinner around 8:50 p.m.

The State Department, which is responsible for all visiting foreign officials, said the "incident is under investigation" but refused to release Allen's name or any further details about his movements that night.

A spokesman for the Indian Embassy said that the crasher was not a member of the delegation and that the embassy did not arrange for his access, but the spokesman did not respond to requests for comment about how Allen got on the van or if the embassy requested that the State Department add the Indian CEOs to the trip. But apparently he knew someone at the embassy: He rode from the embassy to the Willard with the delegation, according to the congressional source.

On his Web site, Allen promotes his event space as the "HushGalleria Mansion." Like the Salahis, he has a knack for getting himself into photos with famous people: Gen. David Petraeus at one black-tie gala last fall, rapper Drake and actor Jeremy Piven at other events featured on his Facebook page. An acquaintance of Allen's said Monday that she spotted photos of Allen, purportedly at the state dinner, on his Facebook page in the hours after the dinner, but that the photos later disappeared after the Salahi controversy broke.

The Secret Service said "procedural changes" have been made to deal with the way foreign delegations under the responsibility of State Department enter facilities secured by the Secret Service. It said this is an ongoing criminal investigation and referred inquiries to the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, which declined to comment.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said the new discovery may implicate not only the Secret Service, which is under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee, but also the State Department: "This incident, along with the terror attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab may well show that the State Department is a weak link in U.S. security."

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