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In a five-page, handwritten letter of resignation, Attorney General John Ashcroft told Bush, “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. Yet I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration.”

Attorney General John Ashcroft, a fierce conservative who generated controversy with his tough tactics in the war on terror, and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, one of President Bush’s closest friends, resigned Tuesday, the first members of the Cabinet to quit before the start of a second term.

Ashcroft and Evans have served all four years of Bush’s administration, which has been marked by little turnover. Ashcroft said he would remain until a successor is confirmed, which could take months. Evans said he would stay well into January.

In his resignation letter, Attorney General John Ashcroft said “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” (AFP File Photo)

In a five-page, handwritten letter, Ashcroft told Bush, “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. Yet I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration.” Ashcroft, who suffered health problems earlier this year and had his gall bladder removed, dated his letter Nov. 2, Election Day

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Mr. Ashcroft’s legacy has been an open hostility to protecting civil liberties and an outright disdain for those who dare to question his policies.”

Speculation about Ashcroft’s successor has centered on his former deputy, Larry Thompson, who recently took a job as general counsel at PepsiCo. If appointed, Thompson would be the nation’s first black attorney general. Others prominently mentioned include Bush’s 2004 campaign chairman, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, and White House general counsel Alberto Gonzales.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.

One of the authors claiming Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code copied his ideas has admitted he exaggerated his case in an interview with a journalist.