Robin beats me to a story on bounties in the Washington Post. I couldn’t have said it better so here is his full post.
A Post article today, Bounties a Bust in Hunt for Al-Qaeda:
Jaber Elbaneh is one of the world’s most-wanted terrorism suspects. In
2003, the U.S. government indicted him, posted a $5 million reward for
his capture and distributed posters bearing photos of him around the
globe. None of it worked. Elbaneh remains at large, as wanted as ever.
Since 1984, the program has handed out $77 million to more than 50
tipsters, according to the State Department. … In 2004, Rep. Mark
Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) visited Pakistan to assess why Rewards for Justice
had generated so little information regarding al-Qaeda’s leadership. He
discovered that the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad had effectively shut down
the program. There was no radio or television advertising. …
In 2004, Congress passed a law authorizing the State Department to post
rewards as high as $50 million apiece — a provision with bin Laden in
mind. Last fall, Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) went further, introducing a
bill that would raise the cap to $500 million. The State Department has
declined to boost the reward for bin Laden, arguing that more money was
unlikely to do any good and would only add to his notoriety.
Let’s see, billions spent via ordinary means, and millions offered
in bounties, and it is the bounties they blame for Al-Qaeda’s notoriety
and failing to catch leaders? The billions are spent and gone, while
the millions in bounties we only lose when they actually work. How
then is this data suggesting we should prefer ordinary means to
Here is one of my previous posts on bounties. The Rewards for Justice program has actually brought in some big catches.