updated 6/24/2004 5:47:06 PM ET 2004-06-24T21:47:06

Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who has appeared before the Supreme Court to defend the Bush administration’s policies in the war on terrorism, is resigning, a Justice Department official said Thursday.

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The resignation of the government’s chief advocate before the Supreme Court will be effective in July, after the high court is expected to rule on three cases involving the detention of enemy combatants.

Olson, who had been a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, will return to private practice, the official said.

Olson’s wife, Barbara, was on the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers commandeered four airplanes, killing nearly 3,000 people. He has been a key player in defending the administration’s controversial legal strategy in the war on terror.

His resignation added to a series of high-level departures at the Justice Department over the past year or so, including former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and Michael Chertoff, who headed the criminal division.

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