2 Secret Service agents in South Korea before Biden trip sent home after 'off-duty incident'

Secret Service agents were involved in an "off-duty incident" that involved potential policy violations, spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told USA TODAY.

  • President Joe Biden is on a five-day trip to Asia that began in South Korea on Friday.
  • Before such trips, agents typically travel to the destinations to work on logistics and planning.
  • The two were placed on administrative leave.

Two U.S. Secret Service agents have been sent home from South Korea and placed on administrative leave after an incident involving potential policy violations ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit Friday.

“The Secret Service is aware of an off-duty incident involving two employees which may constitute potential policy violations,” agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told USA TODAY in a statement.

“The individuals will be immediately returned back to their post of duty and placed on administrative leave,” he said, adding that the president’s trip was not impacted.

Biden is on a five-day trip to Asia that began in South Korea Friday.

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The agents were drinking while off duty and one got into an altercation with a cab driver, according to ABC News and Fox News, which cited anonymous sources briefed on what happened.  

Secret Service policy prohibits drinking within 10 hours of reporting for duty.

Ahead of such presidential trips, contingents of agents travel to the destinations and work on logistics and other advance planning.

Air Force One carrying President Joe Biden touches down at Osan Air Base on Friday in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Biden arrived in South Korea for his first summit with his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol on a range of issues, including North Korea's nuclear program and supply chain risks.

The Secret Service did not say what the agents sent home to the United States had been assigned to do in South Korea when the incident happened.

“We have very strict protocols and policies for all employees and we hold ourselves to the highest professional standards,” Guglielmi said. “Given this is an active administrative personnel matter, we are not in a position to comment further.”

The agency has been under renewed scrutiny in recent months after four Secret Service employees were duped by an imposter accused of posing as a federal agent and offering them free apartments, law enforcement paraphernalia and other gifts.

USA TODAY reported earlier this month that a review by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found the Secret Service has failed to meet training and staffing goals recommended more than seven years ago after a series of high-profile security breaches.

One of those involved a man scaling the White House fence and making it far inside the residence before the Secret Service detained him. Others involved drinking.

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In one incident in Cartagena, Colombia, Secret Service agents and staff brought prostitutes back to their hotel after a night of drinking and partying ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama. The incident became public after an agent refused to pay one of the workers and had an argument in the hallway. 

More than a dozen agents and officers were sent home, and the incident prompted the agency to institute the policy barring drinking within 10 hours of duty and in hotels where the president is staying or expected to stay. 

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