Cover-up at US justice department

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The Independent US

It is only one breast and it is supposed to be art but for the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, it was apparently one breast too many.

Reports suggested yesterday that Mr Ashcroft had grown tired of giving briefings at the US Justice Department in front of two naked statues, one known as "Minnie Lou". As a result, he has now ordered that tasteful curtains be used to cover the offending anatomical feature.

The aluminum Art Deco statues date from the 1930s when the Great Hall in the Justice Department was built as a grand, two-storey room to be used for department events and ceremonies. The formal entrance leading up a winding stairway is adorned with murals depicting great figures in the history of law, including Moses, Hammurabi, and John Marshall, the third Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The two enormous statues are sited at the opposite end of the hall. On the left, a female figure represents the Spirit of Justice and, to the right, the male is the Majesty of Justice. The male statue is clad with a strategically-draped cloth while the female statue wears a sort of toga that reveals one breast.

For Mr Ashcroft, the decision of the sculptor not to chose a more modest piece of clothing, was, in his opinion, obviously something of a boob.

The problem for the conservative Attorney General relates to the habit of press photographers who go to great lengths to include the breast in any pictures they take at the department. The most famous photograph dates from when former president Ronald Reagan's Attorney General, Edwin Meese, released the final report of his Commission on Pornography. Photographers lay on the floor, flat on their backs, to ensure Minnie Lou was included in their shots.

According to a report on ABC Television, Mr Ashcroft has decided enough is enough and drapes were installed at a cost of more than $8,000 (£5,600). Mr Ashcroft's officials claim it has been done for "aesthetic purposes" but no one from the Justice Department was available for comment.