During his speech at the Republican National Convention, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie echoed the right-wing media myth that as secretary of state, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton personally “fought” to keep Nigerian group Boko Haram off the terror watch list, which resulted in the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls -- a claim media fact-checkers debunked.
Christie Claimed Clinton “Fought” To Keep Boko Haram Off Terrorism Watch List In Convention Speech
Christie: Because Clinton “Fought For Two Years To Keep An Al Qaeda Affiliate Off The Terrorist Watch List, ... These Terrorists Abducted Hundreds Of Innocent Young Girls.” During his speech at the July 19 Republican National Convention, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie claimed that “In Nigeria, [presumptive Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton amazingly fought for two years to keep an Al-Qaeda affiliate off the terrorist watch list,” referring to the extremist group Boko Haram. Christie argued that “because of this reckless action … terrorists abducted hundreds of innocent young girls.” From the July 19 speech:
Since the Justice Department refuses to allow you to render a verdict, let's present the case now, on the facts, against Hillary Clinton. She was America's chief diplomat. Look around at the violence and danger in our world today every region of the world has been infected with her flawed judgment.
In Nigeria, Hillary Clinton amazingly fought for two years to keep an Al-Qaeda affiliate off the terrorist watch list.
What happened because of this reckless action by the candidate who is the self proclaimed champion of women around the world? These terrorists abducted hundreds of innocent young girls two years ago.
These schoolgirls are still missing today.
What was the solution from the Obama/Clinton team? A hashtag campaign! Hillary Clinton, as an apologist for an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Nigeria resulting in the capture of innocent young women guilty or not guilty? She fights for the wrong people. [NJ.com, 7/19/16]
Right-Wing Media Previously Hyped This False Claim
Fox & Friends: Clinton “Made Sure” Boko Haram Was “Not Placed On The Terror List,” Which “Perhaps Could Have Saved These Girls Earlier." Fox hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck blamed Clinton for refusing to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), claiming that if she had done so, it “could have saved these girls earlier.” From the May 8, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): This is really something. We've with been telling you over the last couple of days about this terrorist group called Boko Haram out in Africa, how they've killed an entire village. They have since, in the last couple of weeks, they have kidnapped 300 young girls. They're going to sell them into slavery.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): And prior to that, boys.
DOOCY: They burned a bunch of boys. They burned down a village. It's all bad. And now, word is, because we did not place them on the terror list, of officially known terrorist groups, it's going to be harder to go after them. And who exactly made sure that they were not placed on the terror list? Hillary Clinton.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK (CO-HOST): And the rights of women and young girls, those were pillars of what she wanted to accomplish in her time at the State Department. But right here, what she didn't actually tweet, and perhaps because it was over 140 characters, was the fact that her own State Department, as Steve just mentioned, did not place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, which would have forbidden any sort of authority to increase securities to them, increase assistance to Nigerian security forces in that area, and perhaps could have saved these girls earlier. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/8/14]
National Review: “The Excuses Now Being Offered In Explanation Of Clinton's Dereliction Are Specious.” National Review's Andrew McCarthy claimed that Clinton “protected” Boko Haram as secretary of state and that “the excuses now being offered in explanation of Clinton’s dereliction are specious" and “ridiculous.” McCarthy wrote that Clinton was “appeasing Islamists.” From the May 8, 2014, article:
The excuses now being offered in explanation of Clinton’s dereliction are specious. As Rogin explains, Clinton’s State Department claimed that Boko Haram was merely a local group with parochial grievances that was not a threat to the United States. Have a look, though, at the State Department’s list, here. Several of the listed groups are waging local terrorist campaigns that do not threaten our country—the Basque ETA, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Real Irish Republican Army, etc. A significant reason for having the list is to promote international cooperation against terrorism and discourage its use against anyone anywhere. The fact that a terrorist organization may have only local grievances and may not directly imperil the U.S. has never been thought a reason to exclude it from the list.
Fox News has further reported another rationale of Clinton apologists: Hillary did not want to raise Boko Haram’s profile and assist its recruiting which, they reason, would be the effect of designation by the Great Satan. That is ridiculous. The main point of having the list, and the sanctions that accompany a terrorist designation, is to weaken the organization by depriving it of assets and material support. The logic of what Clinton supporters are claiming is that U.S. counterterrorism law — much of which was put in place by the administration of President Bill Clinton — does more harm than good. Does anyone think they really believe that?
What happened here is obvious, although the commentariat is loath to connect the dots. Boko Haram is an Islamic-supremacist organization. Mrs. Clinton, like the Obama administration more broadly, believes that appeasing Islamists--avoiding actions that might give them offense, slamming Americans who provoke them--promotes peace and stability. [National Review, 5/8/14]
Hot Air: “The Responsibility For This Failure Rests Directly With Hillary Clinton.” The conservative blog Hot Air wrote that “the responsibility for this failure” to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization was Clinton’s and that the decision enabled the group to commit acts of terrorism, including the mass kidnappings. Hot Air also brushed aside Clinton's support of U.S. intervention in the Nigerian kidnappings, writing, “Now Hillary wants to fight Boko Haram with hashtags. Too bad she didn't fight them with real resources when she had the chance.” From the May 8, 2014, post:
Boko Haram has wreaked havoc in Nigeria and portions of surrounding nations since 2009, when the Nigerian government tried to crack down on their arms-gathering operations. The group of Islamist terrorists had been known for much of that time to have ties to al-Qaeda, both ideological and tactical. Hundreds, perhaps thousands died in terrorist attacks from 2009 to 2013, many of them targeted for their Christianity. And yet, not until November 2013 did the US finally list Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
Why? We should ask Hillary Clinton
It’s true that not every local grievance requires a State Department designation, but Boko Haram allied itself with al-Qaeda and provided it tactical support, at least. That should have prompted State to act, especially with the consensus within the national-security communities demanding it — repeatedly. Instead, Hillary Clinton refused to act in order to keep up a pretense that “al-Qaeda was on the run.”
Now Hillary wants to fight Boko Haram with hashtags. Too bad she didn’t fight them with real resources when she had the chance. [Hot Air, 5/8/14]
Newt Gingrich: State Department Under Clinton “Wouldn’t Even List [Boko Haram] As A Terrorist Group.” Former Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich blamed Clinton for not listing Boko Haram a terrorist organization in 2015 speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, even though. “last year Boko Haram killed more people than Ebola.” From CSPAN’s broadcast of the Iowa Freedom Summit:
NEWT GINGRICH: You see people all around the planet, this is a global war, and yet they insist on talking about it by geography. So, we’re going to really focus on Northern Syria. Well, there are thousands of jihadists who have come to Northern Syria from all around the world, over a thousands from France alone. Over 600 from Great Britain. over 100 from the United States. This is a global war. In Nigeria, Boko Haram has 10,000 fighters, and last year Boko Haram killed more people than Ebola. But the State Department, for years under Secretary Clinton, wouldn’t even list them as a terrorist group, even though their initial base camp was called Afghanistan, in honor of the Taliban. Now, you would think somewhere in here, people would get a hint. [CSPAN, Iowa Freedom Summit, 1/24/15]
Fact-Checkers Point Out Christie’s Claim Has Long Been Debunked
Politico: Clinton “Was Heeding The Advice Of Numerous Regional Experts” And There Is Doubt About “Whether The Designation Could Have Prevented” The Abduction Of School Girls. Politico fact-checked Christie’s claims about Clinton’s foreign policy record as secretary of state, noting that Clinton “was heeding the advice of numerous regional experts who argued in an open letter that” designating Boko Haram a terrorist group “could elevate the group's prestige” and that “It is not clear that the group ever pledged formal allegiance to al Qaeda, and the two groups were sometimes described as rivals.” Politico also explained that Boko Haram was designated a terrorist group a year before the Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted, “raising the question of whether the designation could have prevented their abduction.” From the July 20 Politico report:
Christie said that Clinton “fought” to keep the radical Islamist group Boko Haram off an official State Department terrorism watch list before she left government in 2012. In 2014, the group abducted hundreds of young women and girls who are still missing. Clinton, Christie concluded in perhaps his most explosive allegation, was “an apologist for an al Qaeda affiliate in Nigeria resulting in the capture of hundreds of young women.”
It's true that Clinton opposed designating Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization, an act that imposes financial sanctions and other legal penalties on named groups and their supporters. While that may be hard to understand—the group already had a clear record of violence and radicalism — she was heeding the advice of numerous regional experts who argued in an open letter that doing so could elevate the group's prestige. The Nigerian government also opposed the designation.
John Kerry did name Boko Haram a terrorist organization after succeeding Clinton in 2013. But the girls were kidnapped the following year, raising the question of whether the designation could have prevented their abduction.
Finally, Christie described Boko Haram as “al Qaeda affiliate.” It is not clear that the group ever pledged formal allegiance to al Qaeda, and the two groups were sometimes described as rivals. (Boko Haram publicly pledged allegiance to ISIS last year.) [Politico, 7/20/16]
CNN: “No Evidence” Clinton Personally “‘Fought’” To Keep Boko Haram Off Terror List. CNN’s Reality Check Team gave Christie’s claim a “false” rating, noting the lack of evidence that Clinton “was personally responsible for the delay in the designation.” CNN also pointed out the “delay” did not result in the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls, which occurred after Clinton left the State Department. From the July 20 fact-check (emphasis original):
Boko Haram, an affiliate of al Qaeda, was never designated a foreign terrorist organization during Clinton's leadership of the State Department. The department eventually labeled the group a terrorist organization while under Kerry in December 2013.
The kidnapping of the 200 Nigerian school girls occurred in April 2014.
While Clinton was head of the State Department at the time, Christie says she “fought” to keep them off the list and there is no evidence that she herself was personally responsible for the delay in the designation. Our verdict: false. [CNN.com, 7/20/16]
Wash. Post: “No Evidence That Clinton Played A Role Or ‘Fought’ To Keep Boko Haram Off The List” Or “That A Terrorist Designation Any Sooner Would Have Prevented” The Mass Kidnappings. Washington Post fact-checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote that “Christie grossly simplifie[d] a complex debate at the State Department -- which actually did not involve Clinton personally.” The Fact Checker blog noted that State Department officials conceded they could have moved faster with Boko Haram’s designation, but that “there is no evidence that Clinton played a role” and that there is also “no evidence” that the terrorist designation “any sooner would have prevented the kidnapping of the girls.” The fact check also pointed out that the hashtag campaign “came after Clinton had left the State Department.” From the July 19 article:
Christie grossly simplifies a complex debate at the State Department — which actually did not involve Clinton personally.
In 2014, the Fact Checker closely examined this issue, concluding that claims that Clinton was responsible for the decision betrays a misunderstanding of how the State Department works. Yes, Clinton was secretary of state in 2012. Designations of foreign terrorist groups are ultimately issued by the secretary of state. But the decision on how to handle the group was resolved before it ever reached her level, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
State Department officials in 2012 vigorously debated how to treat Boko Haram, with the Bureau of Counterterrorism, headed then by Assistant Secretary Daniel Benjamin, leaning toward designation, and the Africa bureau, headed then by Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, urging caution. One big issue was that Nigeria was a government close to the United States — and Nigeria was adamantly opposed to the designation, arguing it risked entrenching Boko Haram. Nigerian officials also argued that a terrorist designation — which halts any flow of funds to the entity or people associated with it — would make it difficult for humanitarian aid to continue in the region where Boko Haram operated.
There was another, complicating issue: U.S. officials thought the Nigerian army had engaged in brutal human rights abuses in its efforts to fight Boko Haram. So a compromise was reached internally: The administration would name three leaders of Boko Haram as specially designated global terrorists while holding out the possibly of a broader designation of the entire group as a means of improving the behavior of Nigerian forces battling Boko Haram.
In any case, in 2013, the State Department formally designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization. Officials later conceded that, in retrospect, they could have moved a bit faster, but there is no evidence that Clinton played a role or “fought” to keep Boko Haram off the list. The internal debate did not rise to her level; it was handled by the deputy secretary of state.
There is no evidence that a terrorist designation any sooner would have prevented the kidnapping of the girls. As for the hashtag campaign, that came after Clinton had left the State Department. [The Washington Post, 7/19/16]
ABC: Clinton “Publicly … Denounced [Boko Haram].” An ABC News fact check rebutted Christie’s claim that Clinton personally “fought” to keep Boko Haram off the terrorist organization list and “responded to its mass kidnapping with a ‘hashtag strategy,’” noting that she publicly denounced the group and that “she was not Secretary of State when the kidnapping happened.” From the July 19 fact check (emphasis original):
Claim: Hillary Clinton is an “apologist” for Boko Haram. She and Obama responded to its mass kidnapping with a “hashtag campaign.”
Rating: False. It is based on a true fact, that Clinton’s State Department declined to list Boko Haram as a terrorist group out of concern that doing so would raise the group’s profile. But publicly Clinton has denounced the group, and she was not Secretary of State when the kidnapping happened.
Background: In 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. declined to list Boko Haram, the terrorist group that would abduct more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, as a foreign terrorist organization, against the recommendations of DOJ, FBI, CIA, and lawmakers, Josh Rogin reported for The Daily Beast in 2014.
That move, however, appears to have been based on a disagreement over whether listing Boko Haram would elevate its status. A State Department official said as much to Rogin in the same story. The assertion that she is an “apologist” appears to be a rhetorical exaggeration criticizing that decision. But publicly, Clinton has denounced Boko Haram. [ABC News, 7/20/16]