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Should 9/11 victims' families, others get bin Laden bounty money?

By Leigh Remizowski, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Up to $50 million could go to those who provided info that helped track down bin Laden
  • Congressmen want money not paid to informants to go to victims of 9/11 and their families
  • The bounty is part of the Rewards for Justice program run by the State Department
  • Unidentified detainees provided key info that helped locate bin Laden, officials said

New York (CNN) -- Any unclaimed bounty money from the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden should go to the first responders, victims' families and survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks, a pair of New York congressmen said Sunday.

Reps. Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler have introduced legislation that would award up to $50 million of the bounty approved by Congress to help fund organizations that provide health care, psychological care and other resources to those most directly affected in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"These programs are ones that desperately need funding that are still everyday dealing with the ramifications of September 11," Weiner said at a news conference from ground zero.

"Hopefully they will now benefit from this reward money."

The bounty is part of the Rewards for Justice program run by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Since its creation in 1984, it has paid out over $100 million to more than 60 people.

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The State Department approved a bounty of up to $25 million for bin Laden in 2001. Three years later, Congress authorized raising the figure to $50 million, although it was never increased by the State Department.

The program grants money to people who provided "actionable information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide," according to its website.

"The department does not generally discuss nominations for awards," State Department spokesman Harry Edwards said shortly after bin Laden was killed last week. The offer, he added, is for a maximum of $25 million. "If it were paid, it could be less."

It is possible that no reward money will be granted. Unidentified detainees provided a key piece of information that helped investigators locate bin Laden, Obama administration officials said.

Even if only a portion of the reward money is given out, the lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to Congress that would funnel the remainder to groups that help survivors and family members "so it doesn't sit fallow in a bank account." Weiner said

"[The reward] was allocated for 9/11 victims in effect, and this is simply, saying use it more effectively for the purpose that it was set up in the first place," Nadler said.

The September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 paid out an average of $2.1 million to thousands of victims' family members who filed claims in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the fund's website said. In addition, survivors who filed personal injury claims with the fund were awarded payments ranging from $500 to $8.6 million.

The State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore had no comment on the possible legislation Sunday night.

CNN's Ben Rooney contributed to this report.

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