The White House should never have to guess who's coming to dinner. Those responsible for protecting the president and his guests should always know.
At the first state dinner of the Barack Obama presidency, held Tuesday in honor of the prime minister of India, two aspiring reality-TV stars somehow outmaneuvered Secret Service procedures to gain admission and then mingle with invited guests.
Tareq and Michaele Salahi, aggressive social climbers from Virginia, posted photos of themselves on Facebook hobnobbing with some of Washington's most elite. Talk about rubbing the Secret Service's nose in it.
Among the Salahis' new BFFs are a smiling Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. That's pretty impressive access for a couple of fame seekers who somehow slipped into the most secure party on the planet.
The security lapse is doubly embarrassing because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was visiting the United States on the eve of the anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year.
Fortunately, the only thing the Salahis carried into the White House was a thirst for TV fame. Still, for a red-faced Secret Service team scrambling to explain how it happened, this is not confidence-inspiring. The security agency said yesterday it may begin a criminal investigation into the matter.
Though all guests were screened for weapons, one can imagine a determined terrorist doing a lot of damage with, say, salad cutlery. At least the TV crew following the Salahis was turned back. Whether the couple at the center of this debacle should face criminal charges will depend on what is learned about how they gained entry. But no one should shed a tear if their next close-up is a police mug shot.
If agents at a security checkpoint failed to follow procedure, then heads should roll. The security of the president and his guests, particularly in the White House, should not be breached, period, let alone by such amateurs.