The Syria researcher whose Wall Street Journal op-piece was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during congressional hearings about the use of force has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War for lying about having a Ph.D., the group announced on Wednesday.
“The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University,” the institute said in a statement. “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”
O’Bagy’s Aug. 30 op-ed piece for the Journal, “On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War,” was cited by both Kerry and McCain last week. McCain read from the piece last Tuesday to Kerry, calling it “an important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy.” The next day, Kerry also brought up the piece before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and described it as a “very interesting article” and recommended that members read it.
But the piece had also come under fire for misrepresenting her affiliations. Originally the op-ed only listed O’Bagy, 26, as only “a senior analyst” at the ISW, later adding a clarification that disclosed her connection to a Syrian rebel advocacy group.
“In addition to her role at the Institute for the Study of War, Ms. O’Bagy is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition,” the WSJ added in its clarification.
O’Bagy wrote on Twitter after the uproar that “I have never tried to hide that Ive worked closely with opposition & rebel commanders. Thats what allows me to travel more safely in Syria,” adding that “I’m not trying to trick America here. I’m just trying to show a different side to the conflict that few people have the chance to see.”
O’Bagy, who has traveled widely with rebel forces in Syria, had been a senior research analyst with ISW. Her biography on the site before she was fired stated that “Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy is a Senior Research Analyst and the Syria Team Lead at the Institute for the Study of War, where she focuses on Syrian politics and security. Her major reports on the Syrian opposition include: The Free Syrian Army, Jihad in Syria, and Syria’s Political Opposition.”
And in the press release announcing she joined the Syrian Emergency Task Force, the group called her “Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy” and said she “recently gained a Master’s in Arab Studies from Georgetown University. Prior to ISW, she received a Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic in Tangier Morocco and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.”