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Topic: Syria writer fired for Ph.D. lie
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Syria writer fired for Ph.D. lie
Posted: Sep 15, 2013 5:43 PM
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From CNN, Thursday, September 12, 2013. See
Syria writer Elizabeth O'Bagy, cited by Kerry, McCain, fired for Ph.D. lie

By Morgan Winsor

. Elizabeth O'Bagy was fired from the Institute for the Study of War
for lying about a Ph.D..
. John Kerry, John McCain cited her WSJ op-ed "On the Front Lines of
Syria's Civil War"
. O'Bagy also was political director of the nonprofit Syrian
Emergency Task Force
. The institute's director says she is "confident" in O'Bagy's work
despite Ph.D. lie.

(CNN) -- A lie about earning a Ph.D. cost a Syria expert her job as
an analyst days after her op-ed in the Wall Street Journal was cited
by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain in
congressional hearings about possible U.S. military action in the
war-torn country.

Elizabeth O'Bagy, who was an analyst at the Institute for the Study
of War, said she had earned a doctorate from Georgetown University
when she had not, the organization announced Wednesday.

"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," the institute posted in an online statement Wednesday.

The president of the institute, Dr. Kim Kagan, said she was surprised
to learn of O'Bagy's lie just before the former senior research
analyst admitted it on Tuesday. The decision to terminate O'Bagy's
employment at the institute was made later that day, Kagan said.
U.S. credibility and the use of force
O'Bagy was hired a year ago as a research analyst, after she had been
working as an intern at the institute for a few months. O'Bagy proved
to be an exceptional researcher and analyst, and Kagan said she was
"pleased and proud to move her forward."

Last week, both Kerry and McCain cited O'Bagy's op-ed piece, which
was published in the Wall Street Journal on August 30, titled "On the
Front Lines of Syria's Civil War." Part of the debate over
authorizing American military action is how many of the rebel groups
are extremist and how many are moderate.

According to O'Bagy's op-ed, extremists and moderates exercise
control over distinct areas of the country, and checkpoints are often
set up to define territory. Also, there are distinct areas where
moderate rebels are in control and can keep weapons out of the hands
of extremists, O'Bagy told CNN in an interview last week. Kerry and
McCain agreed with O'Bagy that Syria is a secular state; McCain even
called her op-ed "important."

Initially, the Wall Street Journal only recognized O'Bagy as a
"senior analyst" at the institute, but a clarification was later
added, stating her affiliation with the Syrian Emergency Task Force,
a non-profit organization based in Washington that advocates a free
and democratic Syria.

O'Bagy responded on Twitter last week to scrutiny over her
association with the Syrian rebel advocacy group, writing she never
tried to conceal her ties with opposition and rebel commanders and is
not being paid to advocate her views on Syria. Rather these
connections allow her to travel more safely in Syria, she wrote.

"I'm not trying to trick America here," O'Bagy tweeted on September 7.

Before accepting her position as political director of SETF, O'Bagy
had to ask Kagan for approval. Kagan granted her permission because
O'Bagy said she would be distributing humanitarian aid to Syrian

SETF posted a news release online in May, welcoming "Dr. Elizabeth
O'Bagy" to its Washington staff. The news release has since been

It's unclear whether O'Bagy still holds her position at the SETF in
light of the revelations about her non-existent doctorate degree. The
organization declined to comment Wednesday.

According to Kagan, the institute never had reason to doubt O'Bagy's
qualifications, and she could not comprehend any motivation the
former employee would have for lying about her education.

O'Bagy was not immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

O'Bagy received a Master of Arts degree in Arab Studies from
Georgetown University in May and was allegedly working on her
dissertation for a Ph.D, which she told Kagan she had completed later
that month, Kagan said.

"I hired (O'Bagy) without (a doctorate degree) and would have kept
her if she hadn't pursued it. So this is particularly sad," Kagan

Despite the lie, Kagan said she is "confident" in the work O'Bagy
produced for the institute, because she and other research officials
for the institute validate any research and argumentation that is
published. Also, O'Bagy never had the administrative power to enter
data into the institute's resource database, she said.

"I do trust her work," Kagan said.

O'Bagy has appeared on several television networks, including BBC,
CNN, Fox and PBS. Last week, she was a guest on CNN Newsroom and Fox
News, speaking about Syria. Because of the revelation about her false
doctorate, O'Bagy will not appear again as an analyst on CNN networks.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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