Pressed by dozens of lawmakers from both parties in 2012 to putgreater focus on growing violence by Boko Haram, the Islamistmilitant group that recently kidnapped 200 teenage girls inNigeria, the State Department sent something akin to a formletter in reply.
The Oct. 12, 2012 letter from the State Department to thecongressional officials downplayed the religious motivations ofthe group’s violence. “Similar to the United States,Nigeria’s religious diversity is a source of strength, withcommunities working across religious lines to protect oneanother,” the letter, obtained by Breitbart News, said.
The State Department’s 2012 response to congressional pressurehas 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 asSecretary of State.
After years of resisting, the State Department designated BokoHaram as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in November2013.
Republican lawmakers and aides said that their privateconversations with State Department officials were even moredismissive 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. Whatyou’re saying is not true,'” recalled a GOP aide whoparticipated in the meetings.
The staffer continued, “‘Boko Haram, right now,’ they weresaying, ‘doesn’t have a clear enough hierarchy within theorganization to have it be listed as an FTO[Foreign TerroristOrganization]. Their attacks weren’t wide-spread enough.’ Theother argument that they gave was, ‘Oh these attacks aren’treally religiously motivated.'”
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks slammed Clinton for herresponse at the time to his calls that State declare Boko Haraman FTO.
respond to any congressional calls for Boko Haram to be placedon the FTO list. In fact, Secretary Clinton wascounterproductive to any initiative to place Boko Haram on thislist and actively worked against our efforts within the U.S.Congress to combat the religiously-motivated violenceperpetuated by Boko Haram,” Franks said.
The State Department letter came in response to a letter from 28representatives 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.
its seemingly loose and decentralized structure can make itdifficult to discern specific, organization-wide goals. But wemust also acknowledge that there are those within Boko Haram whoseek to create an Islamic state in Nigeria,” the letter said.
Over two months later, David S. Adams, the State Department’sassistant secretary for legislative affairs, responded with theletter insisting religion was not the true root of violence inNigeria.
the primary source of violence in Nigeria,” Adams wrote.
Facing new scrutiny for the 2012 delays in ratcheting uppressure on the group, Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary,Bureau of African Affairs recently defended State’s decision tonot name Boko Haram a terrorist organization last Wednesday in aphone call with reporters, The Daily Beast reported.
terrorist list would in fact raise its profile, give it greaterpublicity, give it greater credibility, help in its recruitment,and also probably drive more assistance in its direction,” hesaid.The letter to lawmakers does not include anything along thoselines.
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki defended the Department’sactions 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 SecretaryClinton. Designating groups or leaders is one key tool in ourtoolbox, but it’s not the only one. And I would point you toPresident Obama’s speech he gave almost exactly a year ago wherehe talked about the need for a holistic approach to counteringterrorism. That’s what we’re pursuing, what we’ve been pursuingwith the Nigerians and international partners. We’ve beenworking to counter Boko Haram for many, many years. Anddesignating is one tool, but certainly, we’ve been long – wehave long been working on this effort before the designationlast November.