updated 2/20/2004 4:03:49 PM ET 2004-02-20T21:03:49

The Secret Service began protecting Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Friday and will soon offer its services to Kerry rival John Edwards.

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“It’s a decision the candidate has to request,” said Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur.

Several agents were posted outside Kerry’s five-story brick townhouse in Boston’s Louisburg Square, one of the most exclusive addresses in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The Massachusetts senator was spending the day at home before returning to the campaign trail Saturday.

Federal law allows candidates to seek protection if they meet a series of standards, including public prominence as measured by polls and fund raising.

“A threat could be part of that equation,” Mazur said, declining to reveal whether Kerry was the subject of specific threats.

As for Edwards, he said, “Protection of Senator Edwards has been authorized and the Secret Service is in discussions with the campaign as to when the protective detail will start.”

“I expect to have an announcement on that soon,” said Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.

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