Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Elizabeth O'Bagy's Fake Ph. D.

I notice where a number of commenters at an earlier post are making the claim that Elizabeth O'Bagy was only a month away from receiving her PhD and that therefore it is inaccurate to charge her with lying. Zack Beauchamp at Think Progress takes a look at that claim:
Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy, Syria expert, made quite an impression on Senator John McCain. During Senate hearings, the former Presidential candidate quoted at length from her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed painting a rosy picture of a mostly secular, pro-Western anti-Assad insurgency.

“John, do you agree with Dr. O’Bagy’s assessment of the opposition?,” the Senator asked the Secretary of State John Kerry. “I agree with most of that,” he replied.

Except Dr. O’Bagy wasn’t actually a doctor. Her PhD was fabricated, a lie she told her employers at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), an influential neoconservative-aligned think tank, to get hired. Ironically, it ended up being the lie that got her fired Wednesday. This postmodern reenactment of the Icarus myth also provides a bizarrely informative window into the way that Washington’s foreign policy sausage gets made.

O’Bagy got her start last year, when she interned for ISW’s Iraq portfolio while completing a Master’s in Arab Studies at Georgetown University. Kimberly Kagan, the President of ISW, was so impressed that she hired O’Bagy to start even before the young analyst finished her degree. “Her insights and her [Arabic] linguistic skills were tremendous,” Kagan said.

But O’Bagy had already begun to misrepresent her credentials. Kagan told me that she “knew [O'Bagy] was a student at Georgetown in a combined masters/PhD program,” and that new hire was writing a dissertation on “female militancy in Islamic extremist organizations.” Several media outlets have repeated this account as fact in their write-ups of O’Bagy’s firing, all maintaining that she is still in the process of completing a Georgetown doctorate.

This is almost certainly false. Either O’Bagy was at one point enrolled a PhD program and dropped out, or she has been lying the entire time. Some evidence points to the latter.

To begin with, O’Bagy was enrolled in the Arab Studies Master’s program, which only partners with three departments for joint doctorate programs: Government, History, and Arabic Language, Literature, and Linguistics. Given her purported topic, she would have partnered with Government — according to one Georgetown PhD student who met O’Bagy, she had claimed a distinguished member of the Government Department as her adviser.

She is not listed as a PhD student on the Government department’s website. She does not exist in the university directory. A search of the entire Georgetown website turns up only one hit, a congratulations notice for her Master’s graduation.

There is “no evidence that she is associated with our department in any way; she’s not among our students as far as we can tell,” Daniel Nexon, a Government Professor who served as the Director of Admissions and Fellowships for all but one of the years she could have applied. The professor who was supposedly advising O’Bagy’s dissertation has never heard of her.


  1. What does her claim of having a Ph.D have to do with anything she wrote?

    If what she wrote is wrong it's because of the facts or philosophy she used in the op-ed, not because she lied about having a Ph.D when she wrote it.

    I just don't see how it makes it difference. Alot of great writers don't have Ph.Ds and alot of Ph.Ds arn't great writers.

    Who cares about her Ph.D. It's her propaganda that is the real issue.

    1. Her credentials are not the issue, the fact that she is a liar and willing to fabricate information to help her own cause is the issue. I certainly hope this bit of dishonesty precludes her from ever finding employment in this field again.

  2. One wonders if her main qualification was having female genitals

    1. Today, that is always a criteria for getting hired. However, Ph.D. or not, a 26 year old is not a global expert in anything. This is exacerbated by the fact that she obtained her Masters degree only this year. Deception is her expertise at this point.

  3. She was a senior analyst who was advising the White House on how to make war with Syria. You don't think that the fact that she's a poser and a liar is a problem?

  4. "I just don't see how it makes it difference. Alot of great writers don't have Ph.Ds and alot of Ph.Ds arn't great writers."

    Talk about an irrelevant jackass point if there was one. If the woman lied about something so fundamental, how can you trust her writing? Especially in instances where she is the primary, first-hand source of critical information?

  5. A much larger point than not having her PhD is the fact she was PAID to represent a side in the war

  6. An excellent liar. She will go far as a public servant.