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Published: Friday, 12/4/2009

Secret Service suspends 3 in breach case


WASHINGTON - Three Secret Service officers have been put on administrative leave after the security breach at last week's White House dinner, an episode President Obama said hasn't shaken his confidence in his protectors.

The President, nevertheless, acknowledged yesterday that "the system didn't work the way it was supposed to."

Despite the security breach, the President was never at risk, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told Congress yesterday.

"Pure and simple, this was human error" in which normal security protocols were not followed, Mr. Sullivan testified.

So far, the service's investigation has found three people from the agency's uniformed officer division responsible for the security breach, and all three have been taken off duty until a review of the matter is completed, he added.

Mr. Sullivan had said early on that it was the Secret Service's fault that a Virginia couple made its way to the administration's first state dinner without an invitation.

But as criticisms grew, the White House stepped up Wednesday to shoulder some of the responsibility.

The White House social office was told to return to a long-standing policy of having White House employees stationed at security checkpoints to help the Secret Service.

For all the uproar, Mr. Obama said he still feels safe in the mansion and trusts the Secret Service to protect him and his family.

Some House lawmakers, however, weren't as convinced. "We're all fortunate that this diplomatic celebration did not become a night of horror," said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The couple - Tareq and Michaele Salahi - and White House social secretary Desiree Rogers were invited to testify yesterday, but all three declined.

Committee staffers are already drafting subpoenas for the Salahis.

The committee's top Republican, New York's Peter King, said it's critical that the White House allow Ms. Rogers to testify as well. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs cited the separation of powers and a history of White House staff not testifying before Congress in explaining why Ms. Rogers wouldn't testify.

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