Controversial Syria Researcher Fired Over Doctorate Claim

Elizabeth O’Bagy’s ties to the Syrian opposition had become an issue. Think Tank founder says she had “no problem” with O’Bagy’s affiliation.

A young researcher whose opinions on Syria were cited by both Senator McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry in congressional testimony last week has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War for allegedly faking her academic credentials.

The institute issued a statement on its website concerning the researcher, Elizabeth O’Bagy:

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. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.

O’Bagy and her op-ed drew scrutiny last week when the Wall Street Journal failed to disclose O’Bagy’s ties to an advocacy group backing the Syrian opposition and lobbying the U.S. government to intervene in Syria. The Journal was forced to post a clarification that “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©(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition.”

O’Bagy wrote in an email this Wednesday morning: “I was just fired from ISW and I’m no longer legally allowed to discuss my employment with them or affiliate it any way.”

In an interview conducted before O’Bagy was fired from ISW, she rejected claims that her research was compromised by her affiliation to the advocacy group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

“My research is completely separate,” she said. “Every journalist and every researcher goes into the conflict with their own background and their own ideas.”

“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 the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

Kim Kagan, the founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, says she learned yesterday that O’Bagy had misrepresented her academic credentials and terminated her employment immediately.

O’Bagy has a masters from Georgetown University and was was enrolled in a Ph.D program, but had not yet defended her dissertation, a detail Kagan says she discovered while conducting “due diligence” and double checking O’Bagy’s work following a flurry of media attention on the young researcher.

Kagan stressed that the termination was not related to O’Bagy’s affiliation with SETF. “I had no problem with her affiliation, I approved it,” Kagan said.

Despite O’Bagy’s misrepresentation of her credentials, Kagan described her research as “rock solid” saying “the research stands, unfortunately, it stands alone.”

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