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Brown offers veiled critique of Shaheen over 2012 Boko Haram bill

Scott Brown today offered a veiled critique of New Hampshire US Senator Jeanne Shaheen on an issue a long way from the Granite State: the extremist group Boko Haram that kidnapped more than 300 girls in Nigeria last month.

“Why no action on Boko Haram before the mass kidnappings?” Brown tweeted. “My 2012 bill would have labeled them terrorists. @senatorshaheen was silent.”

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Brown, a former Massachusetts US senator hoping to unseat Shaheen, was the primary sponsor of 2012 legislation that would have required then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to submit a report on whether Boko Haram was a terrorist group. Rather then actually require her to label them as such, the legislation appeared aimed at pressuring Clinton on the issue.

Under current law, the secretary of state decides which organizations are considered to be foreign terrorist organizations by the United States. Boko Haram was designated as such a group in November 2013.

Brown’s “Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2012” was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. No further action was taken on it.

It’s unclear whether designating the extremist group as a terrorist entity earlier could have thwarted the kidnapping. But the designation is meant to hamper a group’s ability to finance its activities.

Shaheen spokesman Shripal Shah said the senator, who sits on the foreign relations committee, was not involved in pressing Clinton to designate the group as a terrorist organization in 2012. He said she left the decision up to the relevant authority: the State Department.

“It’s a State Department decision,” he said. Shah pointed to testimony before the Senate today from Robert P. Jackson, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

“The debate was really about the Nigerian attitude toward designation,” Jackson said, according to a transcript of his testimony. “The government of Nigeria feared that designating these individuals and the organizations would bring them more attention, more publicity and be counterproductive.”

Shaheen, a Democrat first elected in 2008, is up for re-election in November. Brown, who faces a GOP primary, made his bid to unseat her official in April.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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