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On the q.t., Obama girls pay a visit to Falls, Ont. ; White House affirms trip made Sunday

A state secret more closely guarded than the agenda of the recent G-20 summit in Toronto finally was cracked Monday.

Yes, the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, did visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls on Sunday, along with their grandmother, Marian Robinson.

The White House on Monday confirmed the visit by the daughters of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, in a brief e-mail response to a question from The Buffalo News, but declined to reveal any details of the trip.

Other sources, however, confirmed that the two girls also went on the Journey Behind the Falls on their visit to the Canadian side.

But a tight lid on any details remained strictly in place Monday, even after the visit.

The Niagara Parks Police, the U.S. Secret Service and Journey Behind the Falls would not confirm the Obama girls' presence at Niagara Falls.

"We haven't been commenting on any delegations coming through," Inspector Paul Forcier of the Niagara Parks Police said. "Any visits that we had went very smoothly, but I'm not confirming anything."

Regarding any side trips to Niagara Falls by dignitaries or celebrities associated with the G-20 summit, he said, "There have been no issues or threats. They have been very positive visits."

Why have officials remained so tight-lipped, especially after the visits have concluded?

"Maybe things have wrapped up at the G-20 summit, but there may be other delegations coming to Niagara Falls," Forcier said Monday. "We had one [visit] this morning. Since those visits may not be done, we're not making it our business to confirm or deny the identities of any of the delegations."

Other sources said at least one high-ranking official from Vietnam visited the falls Monday morning.

Forcier was asked whether celebrities, such as the Obama daughters, typically are provided with private visits instead of having to mingle with other tourists. That depends on the nature of the visit, he said.

For example, he was asked, are high-profile visitors given private rides on attractions such as the Maid of the Mist?

Forcier said the only private tour on the Maid of the Mist that he could remember was the visit by Princess Diana and her two sons, Princes William and Harry, in October 1991, six years before her death.

Forcier was a lot more forthcoming than either the Secret Service or officials from Journey Behind the Falls.

A spokesman for the Secret Service said officials there never comment on the movements of anyone they escort.

And at Journey Behind the Falls, one supervisor said only, "I do not have any authorization to comment on that."

So what Malia, almost 12, and Sasha, 9, thought of their up-close view of the falls may not be known until next fall -- when their teachers read the obligatory essays on "What I Did Over My Summer Vacation."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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