A researcher at the the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), whose opinions were cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain during congressional testimony, has been fired for allegedly lying about her academic credentials.
Elizabeth O'Bagy got a lot of media attention last week after she wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, which failed to disclose O’Bagy’s ties to the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), an advocacy group supporting the Syrian opposition and lobbying the U.S. government to intervene.
The young senior analyst at the non-partisan think tank wrote that moderates were leading the opposition against the Syrian government. Kerry and McCain cited her work as they pressed Congress for intervention.
The paper later posted a clarification, saying, "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."
Before O'Bagy was fired from ISW, she stressed that her affiliation with SETF and her research were "completely separate."
“Elizabeth is one of the best experts on Syria and her field work inside Syria along with her extensive networks on the ground makes her one of few people that can help inform policy makers on the reality on the ground,” said Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of SETF.
Kim Kagan, the founder and president of ISW, said she fired O'Bagy after learning she had not in fact completed her Ph.D. Kagan said the termination had nothing to do with O'Bagy's affiliation to SETF.
“I had no problem with her affiliation, I approved it,” Kagan said.
O’Bagy has a masters degree from Georgetown University and was was enrolled in a Ph.D program, but had not yet defended her dissertation. Kagan said she discovered the misrepresentation while conducting "due diligence" following the media attention.
Kagan described O'Bagy's research as "rock solid" despite her lacking credentials. "The research stands, unfortunately, it stands alone."