A researcher whose work was cited by the Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Senator John McCain in their attempts to persuade Congress to take military action in Syria has been fired for lying about her academic credentials.
Elizabeth O’Bagy was an analyst at the influential think-tank the Institute for the Study of War, and had travelled to Syria several times to report on the conflict. At the height of the debate over whether the US should intervene in Syria she penned an opinion column for The Wall Street Journal to drum up support for intervention.
In her piece, “On the front lines of Syria’s civil war,” Ms O’Bagy argued that the influence of extremists among rebels in Syria was inflated by the media, and that moderate forces made up a significant part of those fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr McCain called it “an important op-ed by Dr Elizabeth O’Bagy”. The next day, Mr Kerry brought up the piece before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, describing it as “very interesting” and recommending that members read it.
But soon after the piece was shared far and wide by the influential lawmakers, questions began to arise about Ms O’Bagy’s links to a lobby group connected to the Syrian opposition.
The Journal was forced to post a clarification that “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 US and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition”.
But as more people began to delve into Ms O’Bagy’s past, it emerged that she had lied about her academic credentials, and was swiftly fired from the Institute, which said in a statement, “... contrary to her representations, Ms Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a PhD from Georgetown University...”