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McCain says he'll take Secret Service protection

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  • McCain has gone without Secret Service protection
  • Sources now say McCain campaign, Secret Service will talk about detail
  • Security expert says McCain's lack of guards endangers others
  • Secret Service source says there have been no threats against McCain
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From Jeanne Meserve
CNN Homeland Security Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain has made it very clear he doesn't want Secret Service protection, but Friday bowed to reality and said he will take it.

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One observer says Sen. John McCain doesn't want to be restricted by a security detail.

McCain told Fox News Friday that he will meet with Secret Service officials next week to arrange for protection.

"I think that it's important as we get more and more visibility, that we recognize the inevitable...we will be talking with them early to arrange for very soon, some Secret Service protection," McCain told Fox News.

McCain relishes his personal contact with voters on the campaign trail and has said Secret Service protection would constrain his political and personal style.

"He does not want to be restricted," said Jonathan Martin of Politico. "He wants to act like any other normal American -- to be able to come and go as he pleases and stop for a cup of coffee as he often does wherever he wants, whenever he wants and do so without checking in with a group of security folks."

A Secret Service source said the McCain campaign initiated conversations with the agency. Two sources, one in the campaign and one in the government, said there has been occasional contact for some time, although the presumptive Republican nominee has long declined a security detail.

The discussions centered on issues like the potential risk of certain locations, though there have been no specific threats against McCain.

A meeting between McCain aides and top agency officials was to have taken place several weeks ago, but that meeting was postponed by the campaign.

Thursday, at least one congressman appeared surprised to learn in a committee meeting that McCain wasn't being protected by the Secret Service.

"I am actually surprised to hear that Sen. McCain is -- not that he hasn't asked, but that we're not protecting him. Are there certain levels or phases of protection, any of that in effect?" Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, asked Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan in a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee's homeland security subcommittee.

Sullivan said there were not.

One security expert who served in the Secret Service in the administrations of presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter said McCain's decision to go without protection put others at risk.

"I think it is a little selfish," said Jack McGeorge. "He is a senator. He is a public figure. And it is not about him."

McGeorge noted that when John Hinckley shot President Reagan in 1981, he also hit three other people.

"The gunman doesn't just necessarily hit the selected target," McGeorge said. "So he places other people in his entourage at risk without ever asking them if they agree to this."

McCain campaign and government sources said they expect the talks between McCain and the Secret Service to accelerate and to begin soon, although no date has been set.

A detail is ready; candidate details teams have been training for months, and there is a McCain team ready to go on very short notice, a Homeland Security source said.

To get Secret Service protection before an election, a candidate must request it and the secretary of Homeland Security must approve the request.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama got a security detail last May, earlier than any other candidate ever has, except for his Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has had Secret Service protection since her husband, Bill Clinton, was president. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's John King contributed to this report.

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