The State Department's top official for Africa this week defended the decision not to designate Boko Haram as a "foreign terrorist organization" (FTO) -- but then used the term "terrorist organization" in reference to the Nigerian Islamist group, CNSNews.com reports. A Nigerian Christian leader criticized the move, saying failure to designate Boko Haram as an FTO emboldened the group and signaled that its targeting of Christians was acceptable. The administration on June 21 listed three Boko Haram leaders as "specially designated global terrorists" (SDGTs) but stopped short of listing the group as an FTO under U.S. law, a step some Republican lawmakers have been urging. Appearing before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Tuesday, Johnnie Carson of the Bureau of African Affairs spoke about the decision. Questioned by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Carson said most members of Boko Haram were only interested in discrediting the government -- then said the group's "emergence as a terrorist organization" was irrespective of whether there was a Christian or Muslim leader in the country and that there would be a "reaction" as long as "the social, economic problems exist in the North." Smith disagreed with Carson's assessment, saying Boko Haram had "at its core a radical Islamic position." Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for much of the ongoing violence in Nigeria, which has increasingly taken the form of an anti-Christian jihad in the group's campaign to promote sharia (Islamic law) and oppose "Western education."