ABC NEWS' Yunji de Nies Reports:
A former White House staff member says had she been on the job, the now notorious White House crashers would never have made it into the State Dinner.
Cathy Hargraves tells Newsweek that for years, her focus was to supervise guest lists and clear invitees into the White House. On the night of major events, Hargraves was a fixture at the East Gate portico entrance, greeting guests, vouching for those whom may have inadvertently been left off the list and turning away those who were not supposed to be there.But White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers has said no one from her office was at the gate at last Tuesday's State Dinner, when Michaele and Tareq Salahi slipped past security without an invitation. The couple spent up to two hours on the grounds, making it all the way to the Blue Room to shake hands with the President and Indian Prime Minister. Of course Rogers was at the dinner as well, even pausing at one point to speak with reporters about which designer dress she was wearing (Comme Des Garcons). But Hargraves wasn't at the gate, because she had resigned last June. She told Newsweek that when Rogers came in with the new administration, she changed her job, and revoked most of her responsibilities, essentially demoting her to a date entry clerk, prompting Hargraves to quit. "I knew she [Hargraves] left but did not know they did not replace the job in the same way," a former White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told ABC News, "That's really too bad - it really helps them to have this person because it is such a bear of a job but so important." "It was Cathy who would input all the names, take all the responses, give them to the calligraphers who would address the invites, do the place cards," the former official said, "On game day she was a key link to Secret Service because she was posted at the East Portico with them because she was the most intimately knowledgeable of the list."
Hargraves said had she been there that night, the reality-tv hopefuls never would have made into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Desiree Rogers declined ABC News' request for an interview.UPDATE: The Secret Service says their initial investigation indicates that the breach occurred at the first of two checkpoints, after an officer allowed the couple to pass. The agency spokesman Edwin Donovan says the blame lies squarely with them. "Bottomline: We're responsible. It could have been very easy to make a phone call or get on a radio and verify if someone was on a list," said Donovan, “This is still our responsibility as we've said from the beginning."