Rumors had been floating around the web for days, but it wasnt until late Tuesday evening that the White House confirmed that US Attorney General John Ashcroft has resigned as the nations top cop.
The famously conservative two time governor and former senator from Missouri led the Justice Department through a tremendous period of change in the wake of 9/11, including the restructuring of the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to make fighting terrorism the primary task, and the prosecution of a flood of corporate fraud cases in after the Enron and WorldCom failures.
Ashcroft is both celebrated and demonized as an architect and fervent defender of the USA Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act brought an unprecedented expansion in powers to law enforcement following the bombing of the Twin Towers. While originally pitched as a necessary tool for the fight against terrorism, the DOJ has used elements of the Patriot Act, including the surveillance of websites usage, on cases unrelated to terrorism, including the prosecution of credit card fraud, bank theft and drugs. The USA Patriot Act also raised the penalties for hacking in the US, especially in relation to systems used in national security and criminal justice.
Ashcrofts resignation consisted of a five page handwritten letter, dated November 2, and said in part:
"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts. Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration. I believe that my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons."
Ashcroft was in ill health early this year and was hospitalized for much of March when he had his gallbladder removed.
The White House did not offer an exact date for the Ashcrofts departure from office.