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May 8th, 2014
05:36 PM ET

Is Boko Haram a threat to U.S.?

(CNN) – Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, pushed for Boko Haram to be designated a terrorist organization years ago.

If then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had done so, "we would have had more intelligence" on Boko Haram, and "a better chance perhaps to know who is who in the organization, and more about their activities," says Meehan.

But at the time, Boko Haram did not pose a significant threat to U.S. interests. The State Department only designated the group a foreign terrorist organization in November 2013.

Meehan says Boko Haram was showing signs of increasing sophistication back in 2011.

"We were appropriately trying to sound the signal that this was a group that we needed to watch, and we needed to use the full resources of our country to be able to do so," said Meehan.

After claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria, the U.S. is now going after Boko Haram, a move that "carries consequences," as former CIA director Micheal Hayden put it.

"We are putting an American face on opposition to Boko Haram. An organization that doesn't target Americans yet, and we may accelerate that process because of what we've done," Hayden told CNN Wednesday.

Now that the kidnappings have brought Boko Haram international attention, Meehan says it's likely the group will "metastasize beyond just locally in Nigeria."

"They are already out there, so the potential is there," says Meehan. "We need to have more closer work with the Nigerian people themselves, the government."

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