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Exclusive: McCain Hires Controversial Syria Analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy

Sen. John McCain has hired Elizabeth O’Bagy, the Syria analyst in Washington who was fired for padding her credentials, The Cable has learned. She begins work Monday as a legislative assistant in McCain’s office. O’Bagy was a young but well-respected advisor at the Institute for the Study of War and had emerged quickly as an ...

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Sen. John McCain has hired Elizabeth O’Bagy, the Syria analyst in Washington who was fired for padding her credentials, The Cable has learned. She begins work Monday as a legislative assistant in McCain’s office.

O’Bagy was a young but well-respected advisor at the Institute for the Study of War and had emerged quickly as an important voice among those arguing in favor of intervention in Syria. McCain and others had cited her work publicly before her nascent reputation collapsed when it was discovered that her claims to having a combined master’s/Ph.D. were false and that in fact she had not yet defended her thesis.

"Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year," McCain told The Cable in a statement. "I look forward to her joining my office." McCain’s office said there would be no further comment on the matter.

O’Bagy quickly emerged as a lead analyst on Syria after McCain praised an op-ed she had written in the Wall Street Journal, which argued that moderate rebels were able to keep U.S.-supplied weapons from falling into the hands of extremist groups. McCain, who has been the leading voice in Congress for arming moderate rebels, called O’Bagy’s analysis "important" during a hearing in September about possible U.S. military intervention in Syria.

At the hearing, McCain asked Secretary of State John Kerry whether he agreed with O’Bagy’s conclusions about the Syrian opposition. "I agree with most of that," Kerry replied.

O’Bagy, who is 26, was abruptly shown the door a week later, after it was confirmed that she had padded her academic credentials with a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. She also failed to disclose in her op-ed that she was part of a pro-Syrian rebel political group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

O’Bagy claimed that she was a contractor for the task force, not an employee, and didn’t participate in any of the group’s lobbying efforts. But she acknowledged helping the group set up a meeting between McCain and commanders with the Free Syrian Army.

Several media organizations reported that O’Bagy was enrolled in a Ph.D. program, but a subsequent investigative report by ThinkProgress found that was not the case. "Either O’Bagy was at one point enrolled a PhD program and dropped out, or she has been lying the entire time," the site reported.

Not exactly the standard start to a Senate career. 

Sen. John McCain has hired Elizabeth O’Bagy, the Syria analyst in Washington who was fired for padding her credentials, The Cable has learned. She begins work Monday as a legislative assistant in McCain’s office.

O’Bagy was a young but well-respected advisor at the Institute for the Study of War and had emerged quickly as an important voice among those arguing in favor of intervention in Syria. McCain and others had cited her work publicly before her nascent reputation collapsed when it was discovered that her claims to having a combined master’s/Ph.D. were false and that in fact she had not yet defended her thesis.

"Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year," McCain told The Cable in a statement. "I look forward to her joining my office." McCain’s office said there would be no further comment on the matter.

O’Bagy quickly emerged as a lead analyst on Syria after McCain praised an op-ed she had written in the Wall Street Journal, which argued that moderate rebels were able to keep U.S.-supplied weapons from falling into the hands of extremist groups. McCain, who has been the leading voice in Congress for arming moderate rebels, called O’Bagy’s analysis "important" during a hearing in September about possible U.S. military intervention in Syria.

At the hearing, McCain asked Secretary of State John Kerry whether he agreed with O’Bagy’s conclusions about the Syrian opposition. "I agree with most of that," Kerry replied.

O’Bagy, who is 26, was abruptly shown the door a week later, after it was confirmed that she had padded her academic credentials with a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. She also failed to disclose in her op-ed that she was part of a pro-Syrian rebel political group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

O’Bagy claimed that she was a contractor for the task force, not an employee, and didn’t participate in any of the group’s lobbying efforts. But she acknowledged helping the group set up a meeting between McCain and commanders with the Free Syrian Army.

Several media organizations reported that O’Bagy was enrolled in a Ph.D. program, but a subsequent investigative report by ThinkProgress found that was not the case. "Either O’Bagy was at one point enrolled a PhD program and dropped out, or she has been lying the entire time," the site reported.

Not exactly the standard start to a Senate career. 

Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. Twitter: @glubold

 Twitter: @shaneharris
Tag: Syria

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