WASHINGTON — The House Homeland Security Committee chairman said Thursday Congress must question the players in the White House security breach, saying the country is fortunate it didn't turn into "a night of horror."

Rep. Bennie Thompson said before Thursday's hearing was gaveled to order that lawmakers need to talk not only to Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple which was admitted to the dinner without showing invitations, but also to White House social secretary Desiree Rogers. All three have declined to appear.

Thompson, D-Miss., had said Wednesday night that if the Salahis didn't show up, the panel was prepared to move forward with subpoenas "to compel their appearance."

"This hearing is not about crashing a party at the White House. Nor is it about wannabe celebrities," Thompson said at the outset. He said he hearing was all about protecting the president.

"We're not concerned about agency embarrassment," he said. "The security gaps at issue cannot be explained away as missteps by a few frontline employees. There were undeniable planning and execution failures of the entire Secret Service apparatus," Thompson said. "We're all fortunate that this diplomatic celebration did not become a night of horror. ... We must dissect every fact ... and after we do these things, we need to give thanks that no lives were lost," he said.

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