State Department Dismissed Boko Haram Concerns In 2012
Pressed by dozens of lawmakers from both parties in 2012 to put
greater focus on growing violence by Boko Haram, the Islamist
militant group that recently kidnapped 200 teenage girls in
Nigeria, the State Department sent something akin to a form
letter in reply.
The Oct. 12, 2012 letter from the State Department to the
congressional officials downplayed the religious motivations of
the group's violence. "Similar to the United States,
Nigeria’s religious diversity is a source of strength, with
communities working across religious lines to protect one
another," the letter, obtained by Breitbart News, said.
The State Department's 2012 response to congressional pressure
has emerged as a controversy after the kidnapping incident,
which raised the profile of the loosely-banded, violent group.
The response occurred during Hillary Clinton's tenure as
Secretary of State.
After years of resisting, the State Department designated Boko
Haram as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in November
Republican lawmakers and aides said that their private
conversations with State Department officials were even more
dismissive than the letter itself. H.R. 5822, The Boko Haram terrorist designation act, was legislation introduced by House members on May 17, 2012 but the bill died in Committee seven days later. A similar bill in the upper chamber met the same fate in Committee on the same day.
“[State Department officials] would say, ‘What you’re doing is counter-productive here.
It’s hurting our relationship with the Nigerian government. What
you’re saying is not true,’” recalled a GOP aide who
participated in the meetings.
The staffer continued, “’Boko Haram, right now,’ they were
saying, ‘doesn’t have a clear enough hierarchy within the
organization to have it be listed as an FTO[Foreign Terrorist
Organization]. Their attacks weren’t wide-spread enough.’ The
other argument that they gave was, ‘Oh these attacks aren’t
really religiously motivated.’”
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks slammed Clinton for her
response at the time to his calls that State declare Boko Haram
"Hillary Clinton’s State Department was excruciatingly slow to
respond to any congressional calls for Boko Haram to be placed
on the FTO list. In fact, Secretary Clinton was
counterproductive to any initiative to place Boko Haram on this
list and actively worked against our efforts within the U.S.
Congress to combat the religiously-motivated violence
perpetuated by Boko Haram,” Franks said.
The State Department letter came in response to a letter from 28
representatives of both parties.
The July 26, 2012 letter to Clinton, which was signed by Rep.
Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA), Franks, and Rep.
Jim McGovern (D-MA), along with 24 other House members.
“We acknowledge that the goals of Boko Haram are wide-raning and
its seemingly loose and decentralized structure can make it
difficult to discern specific, organization-wide goals. But we
must also acknowledge that there are those within Boko Haram who
seek to create an Islamic state in Nigeria,” the letter said.
Over two months later, David S. Adams, the State Department's
assistant secretary for legislative affairs, responded with the
letter insisting religion was not the true root of violence in
“The religious tension, while real, should not be mistaken as
the primary source of violence in Nigeria,” Adams wrote.
Facing new scrutiny for the 2012 delays in ratcheting up
pressure on the group, Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary,
Bureau of African Affairs recently defended State’s decision to
not name Boko Haram a terrorist organization last Wednesday in a
phone call with reporters, The Daily Beast reported.
“There was a concern that putting Boko Haram on the foreign
terrorist list would in fact raise its profile, give it greater
publicity, give it greater credibility, help in its recruitment,
and also probably drive more assistance in its direction,” he
said.The letter to lawmakers does not include anything along those
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki defended the Department’s
actions under Clinton telling reporters on Wednesday:
Well, let me first say we designated three Boko Haram leaders,
related individuals, back in June of 2012, so under Secretary
Clinton. Designating groups or leaders is one key tool in our
toolbox, but it’s not the only one. And I would point you to
President Obama’s speech he gave almost exactly a year ago where
he talked about the need for a holistic approach to countering
terrorism. That’s what we’re pursuing, what we’ve been pursuing
with the Nigerians and international partners. We’ve been
working to counter Boko Haram for many, many years. And
designating is one tool, but certainly, we’ve been long – we
have long been working on this effort before the designation