at the heart…of the storm…
Following is the low down behind the now infamous YouTube video that has wrecked havoc in the Middle East.
“U.S. Probes Alleged Video Producer”
by Devlin Barrett, Tamara Audi and Erica Orden
Federal authorities are investigating whether the man allegedly behind a video insulting to Muslims violated the terms of his probation by using computers and the Internet, according to two U.S. officials.
The man in question, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was arrested in 2009 and was convicted of bank fraud a year later for a scheme in which he defrauded banks of thousands of dollars, according to documents from Los Angeles federal court.
The law-enforcement officials say they believe Mr. Nakoula is the same man who in recent days has been identifying himself as Sam Bacile, declining to say how they have drawn the connection.
A man calling himself Sam Bacile said in interviews, including a telephone conversation Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal, that he directed a film called “Innocence of Muslims.” A clip posted to Google Inc.’s YouTube by one Sam Bacile in July, which purported to be a trailer for a film about the Prophet Muhammad, has sparked angry protests in the Middle East.
The movie has its roots with a Southern California group of Egyptian Christians associated with extremist critics of Islam. The film’s assistant director, Jeffrey Robinson, said its production budget was just $250,000.
Media for Christ, a nonprofit religious organization in the city of Duarte, about 20 miles northeast of Los Angeles, took out a permit to film the movie that came to be called “Innocence of Muslims” according to Film LA Inc., which coordinates permits.
Media for Christ produces Christian television programming and broadcasts it abroad in Arabic and English, some of it highly critical of Islam.
Duarte officials said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is providing extra patrols of the group’s facilities, which include a television production house called “The Way TV.”
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southern California, said the Christian group in Duarte was “well-known for being Coptic,” the term for Egyptian Christians. Mr. Ayloush said some local Muslims have complained to him that some of its shows are spreading anti-Muslim propaganda.
Several women who answered the phone at Media for Christ and The way TV, who declined to identify themselves, said they didn’t know anything about the movie.
The Way TV aims to “use Christian satellite television to transform the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, American and Canada,” says its website.
The views espoused by The Way TV and Media for Christ appear to be far from the norm among Egyptian Christians, known as Copts–a mainstream group of Christians with moderate views similar to those of other major Christian religions. The Coptic Church, like the Greek Orthodox Church, has its own hierarchy and leadership.
There are small communities of Copts in the U.S., including in Southern California. They have denounced the film, and in recent days some have expressed fears it would spur retaliations against Coptic communities overseas. Mr. Nakoula told the Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he, too, was a Christian Copt.
In recent years, well-known extreme anti-Islamists like Steve Klein, an insurance salesman from Southern California, have linked with a few Coptic Christians, said Muslim civil-rights groups monitoring the situation. These loosely formed alliances have produced protests at Islamic centers and events in the last few years. Mr. Klein, who didn’t return calls seeking comment, has said in media reports that he served as a consultant on the film.
“There are built-in tensions between Muslims and Copts,” said Mr. Ayloush, whose group put out a statement before the deadly embassy assault in Libya urging Muslims to ignore the film. “It just takes a few extremists to throw fuel on the fire and then other extremists to take the bait, and suddenly the entire world is dealing with a crisis.”
In the AP interview, a person identifying himself as Mr. Nakoula said he had managed the film’s production but denied he was Mr. Bacile. Attempts to identify a Nakoula B. Nakoula at the address were unsuccessful.
The creation of the film itself is unlikely to have violated any laws. The First Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court decisions specifically protect speech even if it is offensive.
However, under Mr. Nakoula’s terms of probation, he can’t access online services without the approval of a probation officer.
Of particular interest to officials now is that someone claiming to be Sam Bacile has repeatedly used the Internet in recent weeks, including to post the 14-minute trailer to YouTube. The U.S. Probation Office in Los Angeles declined to comment.
(Wall Street Journal, Friday, 9/14/12)
…all it takes…is one bad apple…