The couple who crashed the Obama administration's first state dinner communicated with a senior Pentagon official about going to the event, but the official denies that she helped the couple get in.
Michele Jones, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said in a written statement issued through the White House on Monday evening that she never said or implied she would get Michaele and Tareq Salahi into the Nov. 24 White House dinner.
"I specifically stated that they did not have tickets and in fact that I did not have the authority to authorize attendance, admittance or access to any part of the evening's activities," Jones said. "Even though I informed them of this, they still decided to come."
This is the latest twist in the unfolding mystery of how the two reality show wannabes managed to get into the highly secured event and shake hands with President Barack Obama. Also on Monday, a House committee chairman asked the couple and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to testify at a hearing Thursday on the incident.
The couple has still made no public statement since the dinner, but their friends are talking - as is everyone else.
A friend of the couple, McLean, Va., real estate agent Casey Margenau, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the couple interpreted an e-mail exchange as permission to attend the exclusive party. Margenau said he did not personally see the e-mails and did not know with whom the couple was corresponding.
And a member of the House panel that oversees the Secret Service said this morning that the security lapse which allowed a couple to crash a White House function is unforgivable and must be corrected.
Rep. Peter King said, "We can't show this type of weakness to terrorists, to psychopaths."
According to authorities, Michaele and Tareq Salahi were allowed into the White House dinner Tuesday night even though they were not on the guest list. The Secret Service has apologized for the breakdown in security, and an investigation into possible criminal behavior is ongoing.
King told NBC's "Today" show on Monday that a full investigation is necessary "to find out exactly what the Secret Service is doing to make sure this never happens again."
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., announced the House Committee on Homeland Security would hold a hearing on the matter this Thursday.
While warning that "this is not the time for political games or scapegoating," Chairman Thompson called the security breakdown "a slap in the face" to Secret Service employees who put their lives on the line.
"Of course, people have been laughing about it because it is so incredulous," Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said on "Fox News Sunday," conjuring Richard Reed, the "Shoe Bomber," who changed the way everyone now travels through airport security. "This couple may change the way people go to the White House."
Bayh joined fellow Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., in suggesting that authorities pursue criminal charges against the couple.
"It's not a laughing matter that people could get that close to the president and the vice president who aren't supposed to be there," said Bayh, who thinks the incident should not be treated lightly: "You've got to send a strong deterrent that people just don't do this kind of thing."
Kyl agreed, saying, "If it's a federal crime to lie to a federal agent, and these people didn't tell the truth about their invitation, then they should be in some way brought to justice here, again, as an example to others not to do it."
The Secret Service says no charges are pending - yet.
The New York Times, citing an anonymous federal official, reported Sunday that the Secret Service conducted interviews with the Salehis through Saturday. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan refused Sunday to provide information on the investigation, telling The Associated Press, "We are not going to comment any more this weekend."
Friends of the now-notorious pair don't think the Salahis knew their evening at the White House would cause such an uproar, but also that they're probably delighted with the attention, reports CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante.
"They are the most talked-about couple in the whole world right now," family friend Casey Margenau told CBS News.
Margenau told CBS News the Salahis believed they were on the guest list and did nothing wrong. It is unclear what the couple told officers at the checkpoint that allowed them to go through the security screening. The Salahis' lawyer, Paul Gardner, posted a comment on their Facebook page saying his clients were cleared by the White House to be at the dinner.
But the Salahis have gone into seclusion and have not issued any statements, either directly or through their lawyer or publicist - though, apparently, they are willing to emerge if some publication or TV organization coughs up some serious dough.
Michaele Salahi is a reality TV hopeful trying to get on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of D.C."
The couple's publicist, Mahogany Jones, could not immediately be reached for comment about whether the Salahis would testify Thursday. But earlier Monday, Mahogany Jones said allegations that the Salahis are shopping interviews and demanding money from television networks to tell their story are false.
NBC said Monday that the Salahis will be interviewed Tuesday by "Today" host Matt Lauer. The interview is scheduled to air in the 7 a.m. half-hour segment.
An appearance previously scheduled for Monday night on CNN's "Larry King Live" has been canceled.
A TV executive who spoke on condition of anonymity to publicly discuss bookings had told The Associated Press that the couple's representatives had urged networks to "get their bids in" for an interview.
The Secret Service has admitted it made mistakes, but several people who attended last week's dinner suggest the agency shouldn't shoulder all the blame because the White House was also at fault.
"Procedure would have dictated someone from the Social Office should have been at the door . . . they recognize people on the guest list," said the Washington Post's Amy Argetsinger.
Former U.S. Chief of Protocol Donald Ensenat, who served in that post for most of President George W. Bush's 8 years in office, told CBS News in an e-mail that "the Secret Service is being made the scapegoat" in the party crasher incident.
Ensenat blames the White House Social Office for not having personnel with the invitation list at each of the access checkpoints for guests.
"The Secret Service are not bouncers," writes Ensenat. "Their job is security which they perform superbly, putting their life on the line everyday."
Photos: Michaele and Tareq Salahi
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