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Minnie Lou awaits Obama

With the Spirit of Justice statue in the background, Attorney General John Ashcroft addresses Justice Department employees at the Justice Department in Washington Thursday, Nov. 8, 2001. Ashcroft unveiled a sweeping restructuring of the Justice Department to better position local FBI and immigration agents to combat terrorism. (AP Photo/Kamenko Pajic) With the Spirit of Justice statue in the background, Attorney General John Ashcroft addresses Justice Department employees in 2001. (AP Photo/Kamenko Pajic)

It took a while, but President Obama will make his first trip in office to the Justice Department Friday to deliver his highly anticipated speech issuing new guidelines on government surveillance operations.

And the Justice Department is scurrying around to get ready for the big arrival, we hear, making sure the place is looking  spick and  span to watch the president take on an issue that has infuriated pretty much everyone, foe and friend alike, here and countries around the world, including especially Germany and Brazil.

There’s even talk that they’ll be moving some folks around on the first and second floors, apparently for security reasons — we’re dealing with lawyers after all, so you can never be too safe.

And Obama will be speaking on the second floor in the Great Hall, home to the 12-foot “Spirit of Justice” statue of a woman (known as Minnie Lou)  who stands proudly to the left of the stage — as you’re facing it. She’s wearing a toga with her right breast very exposed.

Loop Fans may recall the goofy $8,000 blue curtain that former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft had put up in the Great Hall in 2002 to cover the  aluminum Art Deco statue. (His successor, Alberto (Fredo) Gonzalez, took the curtain down in 2005.)

The most famous photo of the statue was taken in 1986,when photographers dived to the floor  to place Minnie Lou behind shots of former attorney general Ed Meese holding up a pornography commission report.

Do not be distracted, this surveillance stuff is serious.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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