I've been reading every article I can find about this incident and trying to piece together the facts. Based on what I've been reading, I'm strongly starting to suspect that this YouTube film itself was part of a larger incitement plan. I'm not sure to what extent and how it might be connected but there are some startling questions raised.
Here are the key reported facts about the film itself:
- The cast and crew stated that a man going by the alias "Bacile" and claiming to be an Israeli Jew told them they were making a historical drama. The director is at the time claimed in the Craiglist casting post to be someone named "Alan Roberts."
- The crew and cast stated the involvement of several middle eastern men in the initial production:Klein said he didn’t know the real name of the man he called “Sam,” who came to him for advice on First Amendment issues. About 15 key players from the Middle East — people from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran, and a couple of Coptic Christians from Egypt — worked on the film, Klein said.
- Despite their involvement, the cast is selected to be largely white Americans without any particular formal acting training appearing in brown face make up.
- The actors are given alternate fake scripts that feature scenes that would visually match the inflammatory sequences but carefully packaged to completely conceal the film's content. Every effort is made by the 'producers' to hide, deceive, and trick the cast and crew from the actual intent and plan of what is actually being created. After several scenes are recorded with these actors, the scenes are manipulated and re-dubbed to recast it into a blatant anti-Islamic caricature mocking the prophet Mohammed.
- These scenes are cobbled together into a 14 minute YouTube video, but it is unclear at this time if an actual full film really exists or the entire effort was to manufacture the short YouTube clip. There are now major doubts whether it was ever intended to be an actual film or some kind of larger hoax. Further doubts are cast whenclaims that it was once screened in Hollywood fail to check out.He said the film had been shown at a screening at a theater “100 yards or so” from Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood over the summer, drawing what he suggested was a depressingly small audience. He declined to specify what theater might have shown it, and theater owners in the vicinity of the busy strip said they had no record of any such showing.
- When news begins to break and reporters attempt to contact someone named "Bacile," the man via phone impersonating him tells any reporter who will listen that the movie was created at the behest of "100 Israeli Jews" who gave him "5 million dollars." No evidence of any kind supporting this claim has been found.
- The man impersonating Bacile is revealed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian man living in California. He pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges and served 21 months in federal prison. He has been operating under several pseudonyms. Federal court papers show Mr Nakoula’s aliases include Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others.
- When confronted by an AP reporter he continues to claim that Bacile is a real person who is a Jewish Israeli and further claims that he himself is a Coptic Christian."Nakoula denied he had posed as Bacile. During a conversation outside his home, he offered his driver's license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP subsequently found the name 'Basseley' and other connections to the Bacile persona.
- Two key players in this drama, Terry Jones and Sam Klein say that they were contacted by this man under his alias and asked to distribute and promote this film. Both are known for anti-Muslim rhetoric and Jones himself is known for inciting violence through past incidents. This is what helped create the massive confusion about whether the film was created by Coptics or Terry Jones or whoever. It now appears clear that all of those people were brought in after the creation of the video, spoke only briefly with Bacile, and were told to promote the video at a certain time. They also appear to have been misled about the identity of the real creators:Klein told me that Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym. He said he did not know “Bacile”‘s real name. He said the man who identified himself as Bacile asked him to help make the anti-Muhammad film. When I asked him to describe Bacile, he said: “I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can tell you this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.”
- Both men are asked to promote the YouTube video around the date of the attacks, 9/11. Though the video has been online for months at this point, and completely ignored. Terry Jones, publicly known for inciting violence is brought in at this point:Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., who burned Qurans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, said he spoke with the movie's director on the phone Wednesday and prayed for him. He said he has not met the filmmaker in person, but the man contacted him a few weeks ago about promoting the movie. "I have not met him. Sam Bacile, that is not his real name," Jones said. "I just talked to him on the phone.
- Reports from eyewitnesses and officials come in from Libya that the deadly attack on the US embassy appears to have been pre-planned. It's said that the attackers appeared extremely professional level and that the protest outside appeared relatively peaceful and largely used as a diversion until the actual attack began.But U.S. sources said Wednesday the four-hour assault in Benghazi had been planned, with the attackers using the protest as a diversion.
- Captain Fathi al-Obeidi, commander of a special Libyan operations unit, said his men and an eight-man U.S. force came under attack after American survivors had left the blazing consulate and moved to an ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa. The villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage. “I really believe that this attack was planned,” he said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”
- Some analysts are suggest the violence stemming from the video clip was far from spontaneous. Nasser Weddady, civil rights outreach director for the American Islamic Congress gives this statement to the press:“This has all the earmarks of being heavily orchestrated. There are extremist groups, funded by among others, the Saudis, who deliberately set out to inflame these kinds of extremist sentiments. The fact that the trailer sat unnoticed on YouTube for nearly two months, until the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Then it hit this very sophisticated network of media channels that spew this kind of hate. This did not just happen.”
- US officials continue to investigate the attack."It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack" and appeared to be preplanned, one U.S. official said.
UPDATED INFORMATION 5 PM EST:
- Wired has uncovered information that the listed shell company that managed the film was named "Pharaoh Voice, Inc" and run by someone named "Youssef M Basseley" likely another alias of Nakoula.L.A.-based actress Cindy Garcia, who played a role as the mother in the video, listed a “Sam Bassiel” as the film’s producer on her resume. Crew member Jimmy Israel was given the name “Abnob Nakoula Basseley” for registration with the Screen Actors Guild. A company behind the casting, called Pharaoh Voice, Inc., listed a “Youssef M. Basseley” as its president.
Corporate listing here.
- Nakoula nows denies any involvement in the film's creation stating:Nakoula told the Associated Press he managed a company that produced the video, but has since denied any involvement in the film. “I’m a gas station worker, I didn’t work on it, I know nothing about it. They need to blame someone,” Nakoula later told the Telegraph during an interview outside his Los Angeles home. But on Thursday, federal law enforcement officials said that Nakoula was in fact Bacile.
- In July of 2011 — the month after he got out of jail — Nakoula started casting actors for “Innocence.”
- WIRED article cites several other aliases uncovered being used by Nakoula. Matthew Nekola; Ahmed Hamdy; Amal Nada; Daniel K. Caresman; Kritbag Difrat; Sobhi Bushra; Robert Bacily; Nicola Bacily; Thomas J. Tanas; Erwin Salameh; Mark Basseley Youssef; Yousseff M. Basseley; Malid Ahlawi; even P.J. Tobacco.
UPDATED INFORMATION 6 PM EST
- We now know somewhat of the process on how the video was spread in the key regions. Both the U.S. promotion by Jones at the request of Bacile and the promoting within the middle east and Egypt specifically appeared to happen at the same time.The original trailer of Innocence of Muslims was posted to YouTube by Bacile in July, but never gained attention until last week when it was translated into Arabic and linked to by an Egyptian-American Copt Morris Sadek in an Arabic-language blog post. Around that same time, Koran-burning Florida Pastor Terry Jones began promoting the film to practically no effect in the U.S.But it did gain the attention of a Glenn Beck-style TV pundit in Egypt: Sheikh Khalad Abdalla, a host on the Islamist satellite-TV station al-Nas.* On Sept. 8, Abdullah lit the match that set this entire international incident in motion and broadcast an offensive clip of the trailer in which a man playing Muhammad calls a donkey "the first Muslim animal." Here's the fateful moment of Abdullah on TV playing the clip.
- 3 days BEFORE the embassy attack and before the Bacile/Nousak interview with AP in which he claimed to be Coptic, the story that the video was created by "Coptics" was already circulating the middle east.Shortly following Abdullah's broadcast, views of the video began increasing rapidly and Cairo news outlet Youm7.com reported that the leader of an Egyptian political party "denounced the production of the film with the participation of vengeful Copts."
- Bacile/Nakoula's YouTube account appears to have favorited a video from Egyptian Salafist Al Nour Party featuring Al Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar:Sam Bacile, didn’t do much with his YouTube account, besides uploading two clips from the “Innocence of Muslims” film, but he also commented in Arabic on an Egyptian video discussing his movie, and last month he had favorited a video from the Egyptian Salafist Al Nour Party featuring Al Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar attacking Ibrahim Issa and defending the Salafis. A video defending Salafism is an odd choice for someone who claims to think Islam is a cancer to add to his favorites.
UPDATED INFORMATION 7 PM EST
- Anti-Muslim Movie Maker a Meth Cooker: The man behind the incendiary film, Innocence of Muslims, has a criminal record that includes a narcotics conviction. According to a source close to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested by the L.A. Country Sheriff's Department on March 27, 1997 and charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Nov. 3, 1997 to one year in county jail and three years probation. The D.A.’s office said he violated probation on April 8, 2002, and was re-sentenced to another year in county jail. Nakoula had been registered to vote as a Democrat from 2002-2008, according to the L.A. County Registrar Recorder’s office. In April of 2008, he changed his political affiliation to American Independent.
- Los Angeles law enforcement officials had already been monitoring Nakoula, including during the event claimed to have been the film's sparsely attended "premiere" in Hollywood.The director didn’t watch his creation the night of the premiere. Instead, he sat by himself at a nearby restaurant, staring intensely at the theater, the law enforcement source told The Daily Beast. What he didn’t know was that he was being watched by officers. “You are monitoring the people in the area for behavioral characteristics, and he was displaying them. Normal people don’t act like that. He was across the street, on the opposite side of the block, so he could view what was going on. He was sweating and focusing in on the entrance. He was watching what was going on around and who was going in,” the source said.
I believe there's very strong evidence here that a low cost, high concept plan was at work to manufacture this video. The fact that it was used as incitement for an attack that also appears to have been organized has only raised my suspicions further. I do not claim to know who or what purpose was actually behind creating this video, but I'm certain that there are serious questions here that need to be answered.