Elizabeth O'Bagy has been terminated by her employer, The Institute for the Study of War, after allegations arose that she did not have the doctorate degree she claimed to have. She wrote an August 30 opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during congressional hearings about the use of force in Syria in retaliation for the use of toxic gas attributed to the government of Syria. In a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Kerry cited the O'Bagy piece as "a very interesting article." He urged members of Congress to read the article.
In a September 11 statement, ISW declared that it "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,” adding “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”
O'Bagy had already come under scrutiny because of her ties to a group affiliated with the insurgents currently fighting to bring down Syrian President Bashr Al-Assad. Originally, WSJ had identified O'Bagy only as a "senior analyst" at the Institute, and only later issued a clarification indicating her affiliation with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating 501 (c)(3) that is pending IRS approval which has subcontracts with the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom in the provision of aid to the Syrian opposition.
After the uproar about her affiliations and apparent misrepresentations, O'Bagy wrote on her Twitter account "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.”
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.