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07 December 2023

US uncovers third gatecrasher at India state dinner

US authorities said on Monday that a third gatecrasher sneaked into November's White House state dinner for India's prime minister after an uninvited couple raised security concerns.

The Secret Service, which protects President Barack Obama, said the individual came to the White House along with the official Indian delegation from a nearby hotel. It declined to release much details, such as the person's name.

But The Washington Post, citing an unnamed congressional source, reported the crasher was Washington party promoter Carlos Allen. The source read Allen's name in official emails and documents that are part of the Secret Service investigation, according to the newspaper.

The Post said it spoke with Allen, 39, last month but that he had denied knowledge of anything related to the dinner.

It also cited an administration official who said the White House has known about the third gatecrasher since mid-December.

The person went through required security checks and boarded a bus or van from the Indian delegation's hotel to the White House to attend Obama's gala party for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Secret Service said.

"At present, there is nothing to indicate that this individual went through the receiving line or had contact with the president or first lady," it said.

Rahul Chhabra, the spokesman for the Indian embassy, said the person was not part of the Indian delegation.

"The embassy of India did not arrange his access," he said.

The State Department, which generally escorts official guests, has undertaken "procedural changes" on the handling of foreign delegations, according to the Secret Service.

After boarding the van, the group was taken to the White House, dropped off at an unidentified entrance and did not go through any additional screenings or checkpoints, the Post said.

Although Allen mingled with administration officials and others on the all-star guest list during the cocktail reception, he left before guests sat down for dinner around 8:50pm, it added.

The White House was left red-faced after a dashingly dressed but uninvited couple -- Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- cleared through security and mingled at the dinner, where they shook hands with Obama.

The wife, Michaele, was also pictured cozying up to Vice President Joe Biden for a photograph.

Obama later called the couple's entry a "screwup," telling CBS television's "60 Minutes" last month that he was "unhappy with everybody who was involved in the process."

Lawmakers have ordered the couple to appear before Congress on January 20.

The Secret Service released its statement after Ronald Kessler, the author of a book on the Secret Service and its heavy workload, reported that the agency discovered the third gate-crasher when it tried to match surveillance footage with the guest list.

"The agency spotted an African-American man wearing a tuxedo who had not been invited. He appeared to be with members of the Indian delegation," Kessler wrote on Newsmax.com, a news website.

The glitzy event was the first state dinner thrown by Obama and invitations were a coveted prize in Washington social circles.

Obama invited Singh for the prestigious occasion in a bid to show his commitment to warming ties with the world's largest democracy, which has been uneasy about the US administration's early emphasis on China and Pakistan.


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