Hillary Clinton’s State Department refused to give Boko Haram the legal designation as an official terrorist organization, denying U.S. authorities one of the key tools required to counter the group’s activities.
Boko Haram is the terrorist organization that has gained notoriety for the abduction of more than 200 girls in Northern Nigeria almost a month ago.
At an International Crisis Group gala dinner in New York this week, Clinton called the kidnapping an “act of terrorism,” and claimed the Nigerian government should be doing more to counter terrorists. Yet, the United States could have been helping to do more to combat Boko Haram terrorists earlier on, if agencies such as the FBI, Treasury Department and the Justice Department had been given this key tool by Clinton’s State Department. Even General Carter Ham, former commander of Africa Command, voiced concerns about Boko Haram.
Boko Haram made its international intentions known in 2011 when it bombed the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria—killing 23 people in one of the deadliest attacks on the UN in history. Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., wrote to Secretary Clinton after the attack and again in 2012 to ask that Boko Haram be designated a terrorist organization.
Congress even tried to require the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization through the Boko Haram Designation Act of 2012, which Meehan introduced in the House and then-Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., put forward in the Senate.
Lisa Monaco, former head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division (now with the White House) even sent a letter to the State Department’s counterterrorism chief requesting Boko Haram be put on the official terrorist organization list.
Boko Haram was not designated as an official terrorist organization until November 2013. Over the past four years the violence caused by Boko Haram has killed 8,000 people, and the violence is now spilling over into Cameroon and Niger. This week alone more than 200 people were killed in an attack in Northern Nigeria attributed to Boko Haram.
Now that the State Department finally has designated Boko Haram a terrorist organization and the group’s atrocities have made worldwide headlines, perhaps its time the Obama administration take the threat seriously and support regional efforts to combat the group. Boko Haram is more than a Nigerian problem, and combating the group will require coordination and partnership in the region.