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For years, the Bush administration has touted the bounties as a powerful tool in its fight against terrorism. But in the hunt for al-Qaeda, it has proved a bust.
Known as Rewards for Justice, the program dates to 1984 and was originally used to track down fugitive terrorism suspects of all persuasions, from the Balkans to the Palestinian territories. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the most-wanted list was expanded -- and the rewards boosted exponentially -- as part of a push to eliminate al-Qaeda's leadership.
So far, however, Rewards for Justice has failed to put a dent in al-Qaeda's central command. Offers of $25 million each for al-Qaeda founders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have attracted hundreds of anonymous calls but no reliable leads, officials familiar with the program say. For a time, the program was generating so little useful information that in Pakistan, where most al-Qaeda chiefs are believed to be hiding, it was largely abandoned.