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The Secret Service said Thursday that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama was being placed under its protection, the earliest ever for a presidential candidate.
Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff authorized Obama’s protection after consultations with the congressional advisory committee.
Zahren would not provide details of what led to the extra security, but said, "I’m not aware it was based on any threat."
Obama’s rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, has a Secret Service detail that is provided to all former first ladies.
In the last election, Democratic candidates John Kerry and John Edwards received their protection in February 2004 as they were competing for the party’s nomination. Obama’s detail comes nine months before the first votes are cast.
Federal law allows candidates to seek protection if they meet a series of standards, including public prominence as measured by polls and fundraising.
In a Feb. 12 interview with The Associated Press, Obama dismissed concerns about his own security, but would not answer directly when asked if he had received death threats. The Rev. Jesse Jackson drew early Secret Service protection because of violent threats during his campaigns for president in the 1980s.
"I face the same security issues as anybody," the Illinois senator told the AP. "We’re comfortable with the steps we have taken."