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Obama placed under Secret Service protection

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has been placed under the protection of the U.S. Secret Service, the agency said Thursday.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

The Secret Service said Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama was being placed under their 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.

Officials said Obama had requested the protection. Such requests are then sent to the congressional panel for approval or rejection.

Zahren would not provide details of what led to the extra security, but said, “I’m not aware it was based on any threat.”

Earlier reports said Obama had received a threat of some sort.

But a Homeland Security official said it was not in response to a specific threat.

Obama's campaign office deferred all questions to the Secret Service and Homeland Security.

The Illinois Democrat's schedule for Thursday had him traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York for fundraising events on Friday.

Clinton also under protection
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of Obama's rivals, 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,” Obama told the AP. “We’re comfortable with the steps we have taken.”