As expected, Attorney General John Ashcroft resigned from the Bush administration today (Nov. 9) after almost four years of service, and nine months after the former Missouri governor (1985-1993) and

As expected, Attorney General John Ashcroft resigned from the Bush administration today (Nov. 9) after almost four years of service, and nine months after the former Missouri governor (1985-1993) and senator (1994-2000) created the Department of Justice (DOJ) Intellectual Property Task Force.

Ashcroft has suffered from health problems, including a gall bladder removal.

Ashcroft finally announced the recommendations of the Task Force on Oct. 12, after nearly six months of probing its own resources, and after two previous years of prodding from Congress and the private sector for the slow-acting DOJ to step up to the plate to go after commercial piracy of U.S. intellectual property (IP).

"Intellectual property theft is a clear danger to our economy and the health, safety, and security of the American people," he said at the announcement of the Task Force. Ashcroft vowed "to build the strongest, most aggressive legal assault against intellectual property crime in our nation's history."

In addition to recommendations regarding civil and antitrust enforcement of IP laws, the Task Force's proposals included charging and prosecuting all intellectual property crimes whenever federal law applies, including organized crime.

The Task Force plans are to strengthen the DOJ's ability to bring cases by updating the legal tools that help the United States to charge IP criminals overseas under American law. It also calls for encouraging respect for intellectual property rights through youth education programs, and increasing cooperation with individuals, businesses and industries that have been victimized by IP theft.

Mitch Bainwol, chairman/CEO of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, comments, "John Ashcroft calls things the way he sees them -- and when it comes to IP issues, that was great for America's creators."

Bainwol says Ashcroft "established significant markers for his successor in the second Bush administration. I'm confident his initiatives will be felt for years to come."

David Israelite, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, served as chairman of the Task Force and led its six-month investigation. In the past he told told Billboard.biz that moving forward with the Task Force's recommendations would not be dependent on the AG remaining in office.

Ashcroft, an arch-conservative and an evangelical Christian, has taken heat from civil libertarians throughout his term for what they characterize as restrictive policies of the two post-9/11 Patriot Acts.

He also brushed up against the music business when a stentorian vanity vocal recording of his own religious-patriotic composition, "Let the Eagle Soar," hit the Internet in 2003.

Also resigning from the Bush cabinet today is Department of Commerce Secretary Don Evans.