A screen grab made on October 21, 2010 in Kano from a video allegedly released by the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram in northern Nigeria reportedly shows two alleged sect members standing against a background of a Google Earth shot of the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi with the triangular city prison visible. Boko Haram 'spokesman' claims responsibility for the attack on the UN building in Abuja that killed 18 on August 26, 2011.

The Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram is on its way to being designated a terrorist organization. That is, if Representatives Peter King (R–NY) and Patrick Meehan (R–PA) have anything to say about it.

Today, King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Meehan, chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting that the State Department list Boko Haram as a terrorist organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and Executive Order 13224.

Designating Boko Haram a terrorist organization (as recommended by Heritage) would equip the U.S. government with the necessary legal framework to take action against Boko Haram. This includes the prosecution of individuals associated with Boko Haram, including fundraising, and providing the U.S. intelligence community with the necessary tools to combat it.

Since Boko Haram reemerged in 2010, it has wreaked havoc across Nigeria, targeting Nigerian security forces, government officials, and innocent civilians—Christians and Muslims alike. Despite General Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, warning of Boko Haram’s partnerships with regional terror groups, too few paid attention. It wasn’t until Boko Haram attacked the United Nations headquarters in Abuja last August that Washington took notice.

As pointed out in the letter, Boko Haram has escalated its attacks in the past six months, including the use of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device—a hallmark of al-Qaeda—during a Christmas Day Catholic Mass.

Investigating a terrorist designation will show that the U.S. takes the Boko Haram threat seriously. It will also nudge the Nigerian government into taking decisive action. As alluded to in the letter, the Nigerian government lacks the political will to effectively combat the Boko Haram threat. Growing instability across the Sahel could also provide an opportunity for malevolent actors to instigate violence.

While it is unlikely that Boko Haram possesses the capabilities to immediately attack the U.S. homeland, the terrorist threat should not be underestimated. Investigating a Boko Haram terrorist designation is a necessary step to ensuring U.S. security.