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During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain both cited a Wall Street Journal editorial by Elizabeth O'Bagy to support their assessment of the Syrian rebels as predominately "moderate," and potentially Western-friendly.
"She works with the Institute of War," Kerry said of O'Bagy. "She's fluent in Arabic and spent an enormous amount of time studying the opposition and studying Syria. She just published this the other day. Very interesting [Wall Street Journal] article, which I commend to you."
Kerry added, "I just don't agree that a majority are al-Qaida and the bad guys."
What Kerry and McCain neglected to mention was that O'Bagy had been recently hired as the political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a little known outfit that functions as a lobbying arm of the Syrian opposition in Washington.
Until today, O'Bagy had failed to note her role as a paid Syrian opposition lobbyist in her Wall Street Journal byline and did not note the position in her official bio at the Institute for the Study of War. Only after a storm of criticism did the Wall Street Journal insert a note in O'Bagy's recent op-ed disclosing her paid position at SETF. O'Bagy was also compelled to amend her bio with a lengthy clarification about her work at SETF.
But her work at the Institute for the Study of War should have been enough to set off alarm bells.
"Logrolling for war"
The Institute for the Study of War's (ISW) board of directors is led by William Kristol. Kimberly Kagan, the group's president, was on General Stanley McChrystal's strategic review team in 2009, advocating for a dramatic expansion of the US presence in Afghanistan. Her husband is Frederick Kagan, the AEI fellow who is the uncle of fellow neocon Robert Kagan.
In its 2011 annual report [PDF], the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) detailed its close working relationship with Palantir Technologies, a private surveillance firm contracted by Bank of America in 2011 in an unsuccessful plot to dismantle Anonymous and sabotage Glenn Greenwald.
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