Obama administration pressed to do more on Boko Haram terror designations

The State Department's designation Thursday of three members of Nigeria's Boko Haram group as terrorists immediately sparked renewed complaints that the Obama administration hasn't placed the entire outfit on its terror list. 

“The legal ramifications of this designation only affect dealings with three designated individuals, and not the wider Boko Haram organization, which is growing in intent, capability and targeting capacity,” Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) said in a statement. “A conservative estimate of Boko Haram’s size would be a couple hundred, making three members symbolic, but not sufficient.”

King and Meehan, respectively the chairmen of the House Committee on Homeland Security and its counterterrorism subpanel, have twice requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designate the whole group as a terrorist outfit.

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Boko Haram — Hausa for “Western education is sinful” — is accused of killing more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, in the past 18 months. The group, whose full name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, has also been linked to an attack on the United Nations building in Abuja last year.

Abubakar Shekau is the group's most visible leader, according to the State Department. Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi, for their part, have “close ties” to Boko Haram and “close links” to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

As a result of Thursday's action, the property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now blocked and U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions “with or for the benefit of” the three men.

Here's the full statement: 

“While today’s designation of three individual Boko Haram terrorists is a first step, it is not nearly enough.  Once again, we urge Secretary of State Clinton to immediately designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Designation of three Boko Haram terrorists is insufficient. The legal ramifications of this designation only affect dealings with three designated individuals, and not the wider Boko Haram organization, which is growing in intent, capability and targeting capacity.  A conservative estimate of Boko Haram’s size would be a couple hundred, making three members symbolic, but not sufficient. 

Today’s designation does not allow the Department of the Treasury to sanction additional Boko Haram terrorists.  In order for others to be penalized for membership in Boko Haram, the Department of the Treasury will have to prove the individuals’ relationship directly to the three terrorists designated today.  If these three individuals are killed, the designations are meaningless.   

Nothing should be off the table; the U.S. Intelligence Community should have every available tool at its disposal to combat this organization.  The Department of State refuses to explain its rationale for not designating Boko Haram an FTO, which puts American lives at risk.  Given Boko Haram’s trajectory and intent to carry out terrorist attacks against Western targets, including possibly the Homeland, we must take the growing threat seriously.”