Schumer: State Dept. Should Set Strong Rewards For Helping to Bring Girls Home & Take Aim At Any Who Aid These Barbaric & Gutless Kidnappers
Washington, DC - May 12, 2014 - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined local advocates to call on the U.S. State Department to take three critical steps in order to aid in the rescue of the 276 missing girls in Nigeria. Specifically, Schumer called on the State Department to: 1.) set up financial rewards for reliable information that leads to the location and return of these girls – a system that is already in place for information that leads to the capture of Boko Haram leaders; 2.) provide refugee status for any individual who is not a terrorist that helps find these girls; and 3.) place any individual who is discovered buying these girls, or harming them in any way, in the international Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDES) database, because they are aiding terrorists.
“The kidnappings in Nigeria are barbaric and gutless, and I am urging the U.S. State Department to take three critical steps to aid in the rescue of these innocent girls, particularly in light of the disturbingly inadequate response by the Nigerian government following the kidnappings. I am urging State to set up a reward for information that leads to the girls’ location and to provide refugee status to anyone that aids in their recovery, given the obvious danger that creates. It is also critical to make it loud and clear that anyone discovered buying or harming these girls will be put in our international terrorist database. This move by the State Department should encourage information-sharing and send a message that this inhumane and violent behavior – aimed at stopping young girls from educating themselves – will not be tolerated. It is bankrupt and backward worldview that, in the full light of day, will be rejected by the people of Nigeria – and people in every corner of the world who love their children.”
Schumer explained that already, the Secretary of State may offer rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits, or attempts international terrorist acts, that prevents such acts from occurring in the first place, that leads to the location of a key terrorist leader, or that disrupts terrorism financing. This applies to the members of Boko Haram. Schumer is urging the State Department to also provide a reward for reliable information that leads to the rescue of these girls. In both cases, the utility of the information and whether to make a reward relies on the judgment of the Secretary.
Also, Schumer noted that the United States should provide refugee visas for those who help law enforcement in this investigation, as they do in other scenarios. The individual must: 1.) possess reliable information regarding an important aspect of a crime or pending commission of a crime, 2.) be willing to share this information with law enforcement officials, and 3.) has or will be placed in danger for providing that information. Again, Schumer said, the judgment on whether an individual meets those criteria is made by consular officials.
The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) is an international database of known and suspected terrorists that is capable of utilizing watch list data to make analytical associations that identify terrorist threats.
On the night of April 14, the terrorist group Boko Haram invaded the school, and kidnapped at least 276 schoolgirls, due in part to the Western education they were receiving there. It is believed that the girls are being held somewhere in the forests that stretch into Cameroon. The kidnappers have announced their intention to sell the girls in the marketplace, and it has been reported that some of the children may have already been sold into slavery in the neighboring countries of Chad and Cameroon.
Schumer recognized that the State Department has already taken important action in locating these girls by sending an inter-agency team composed of State Department, FBI and DOD officials to Nigeria to provide surveillance and intelligence. However, in light of the concerning response by the Nigerian government to this crime and in dealing with Boko Haram more generally, Schumer is urging the State Department to do more. Schumer noted that Nigeria has missed opportunities to collaborate with international partners to fight terrorism in the past, and clearly in this particular instance, the Nigerian government acted far too slowly.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the State Department appears below:
Dear Secretary Kerry,
I write to urge that you consider taking three additional steps that may help expedite the rescue and recovery of the 276 missing girls in Nigeria that were abducted by Boko Haram, a violent and brutal extremist group that is officially considered a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. Department of State. While I commend the efforts of the U.S. Department of State in collaboration with law enforcement, the U.S. Department of Defense and foreign governments to bring this horrific crisis to a resolution, the gravity of this situation calls for additional measures and incentives that may lead to the recovery of these missing girls. I am concerned that the Nigerian government continues to be unable to adequately deal with the threat posed by Boko Haram, and the U.S. must pursue all available options at its disposal. To that effect, I would encourage the U.S. Department of State to consider the following three actions:
1) Set up a reward for information that leads to the location and recovery of the 276 missing girls abducted by Boko Haram
Through the Rewards for Justice Program, established by the 1984 Act to Combat International Terrorism, the Secretary of State may offer rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits, or attempts international terrorist acts against U.S. persons or property, that prevents such acts from occurring in the first place, that leads to the location of a key terrorist leader, or that disrupts terrorism financing. In June 2013, the State Department added Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s official leader, to the Rewards for Justice Program and offered up to $7 million for information leading to his location. Earlier this week, the Nigerian police offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the rescue of the missing school girls militants.
The reward is a huge amount in Nigeria's most poverty-stricken region, where unemployment is high and the economy has been destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency. The U.S. committing additional resources would send an important signal and perhaps expedite a recovery.
2) Provide refugee status for any individual that provides critical information and collaboration that helps facilitate the recovery of these girls.
As you are aware, the U.S. has a standard in law for giving visas for those who help law enforcement in a U.S. investigation. For an individual to receive a visa as a result of collaborating with law enforcement, the individual must: 1) possess reliable information regarding an important aspect of a crime of pending commission of a crime; 2) be willing to share this information with law enforcement officials, and 3) has or will be placed in danger for providing that information. I believe that granting refugee status to any individual who collaborates with the U.S. and the Nigerian government by providing critical information that leads to the recovery of these girls should merit consideration for a refugee visa. Given the reach of the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria, there is no question that cooperation with law enforcement on this case would put an individual’s life under threat. The judgment of whether an individual meets the aforementioned criteria should be made by Consular officials at the U.S. Department of State. However, I urge you as the Secretary of State to consider this measure as a means to facilitate further cooperation on this case.
3) Place any individual who is discovered to be partaking in a transaction to buy these girls, or harming them in any way, in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment Database and the consular lookout system.
In a statement on Monday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said the group planned to sell the girls "in the market," calling them slaves. Boko Haram has made very clear it is their intention to sell these girls to willing buyers and in some instances it has been reported that some of these girls may have already been sold into slavery in the neighboring countries of Chad and Cameroon. As you know, on November 11, 2013, the U.S. State Department designated Boko Haram as an official foreign terrorist organization. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) as part of its efforts to counter terrorism financing has added various Boko Haram leaders to its Specially Designated Nationals List. I encourage you to add any individual who partakes in a transaction to buy any of these missing girls from Boko Haram, or participate in harming them in any way, to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDES) database and the State Department's consular lookout system. By buying a young girl from Boko Haram, this individual would be contributing resources to this terrorist organization, which goes directly against various federal agencies counterterrorism efforts. This measure would help discourage the sale of these innocent young girls.
These kidnappings in Nigeria are barbaric and I am appreciative of your efforts to help recover these missing girls. I urge you to consider the measures I have outlined in this letter, which will encourage information sharing and send a message to the international community that this inhuman and violent behavior, aimed at stopping young girls from educating themselves, will not be tolerated. Thank you for your attention to this matter and your work in bringing this matter to a swift resolution. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
Charles E. Schumer