Researcher Fired: “I’m Not Trying to Trick America”By: Lacy Langley - September 11, 2013
Elizabeth O’Bagy, the U.S. researcher whose writings about the upside of moderate opposition forces in Syria were cited by Secretary of State John Kerry has been fired from a non-partisan think tank for misrepresenting her academic record, the group said on Wednesday. She had been a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Her recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War” claimed that moderate opposition forces continued to lead the fight against the Syrian government and was cited by both Kerry and Senator John McCain in congressional hearings last week as they argued for U.S. intervention in Syria.
The piece itself has also garnered controversy. The 26-year-old O’Bagy was listed as a “senior analyst” at ISW, but did not reveal in the article that she had a connection to a Syrian rebel advocacy group. Elizabeth O’Bagy was an unpaid intern when she started at the institute, and because she was a fluent Arabic speaker was pulled into work on Syria.
The ISW’s president, Kim Kagan, told Reuters the move was not a repudiation of O’Bagy’s work, which she described as excellent.But on Wednesday, the institute said on its website that it had “learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”
“I stand by her assessments and her work,” Kagan said. “This is a terrible tragedy.”
A senior State Department official, who was asked to comment, said that Kerry had presumed that media outlets had accurately represented O’Bagy’s credentials when he referred to her work. “Clearly, the larger point that Kerry was making stands: that the U.S. has spent a great deal of time and effort working with the moderate Syrian opposition to provide it with assistance and to help it strengthen it and increasingly coalesce,” the official said.
Last May, O’Bagy and others at the Syrian Emergency Task Force organized a short trip for McCain to go into Syria to meet with General Salim Idriss, who was commander of the Free Syrian Army.The Wall Street Journal article initially only listed O’Bagy’s affiliation at the Institute for the Study of War. It later restated on its website that she was also affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force.
In her defense, the fired researcher wrote on Twitter: “I have never tried to hide that I’ve worked closely with opposition & rebel commanders. That’s what allows me to travel more safely in Syria.” She added, “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.”
Image via twitter