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Sam Bacile Mystery: All We Know Is That His Film Exists

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Libyans walk on the grounds of the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
Libyans walk on the grounds of the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

After YouTube clips of his amateurish, green-screen-heavy film "The Innocence of Muslims" or "Muslim Innocence" were translated into Arabic and led to riots in Egypt and Libya this week, Sam Bacile has become the most famous independent filmmaker in the world, despite the fact that nothing is known about his past, his roots or how he actually funded his project.

Bacile had no internet presence and was a member of no social media networks prior to this incident. There are no early casting calls or production notices for the film. Nor does the film have a page on IMDB, the film database. No actors or crew members have been named or identified, and only a couple of the film's apparent backers -- fringe figures like pastor Terry Jones, Morris Sadek of the Coptic Church and Steve Klein, a "consultant" on the film who self-released an anti-Islamic book in 2010 -- have come forward to reveal themselves.

What we know about Bacile and his film comes solely from his own mouth. During an interview he gave Tuesday from an undisclosed location, Bacile said he was an Israeli-American real estate developer who raised $5 million from 100 Jewish donors, none of whom he identified. He doesn't appear to have a California real estate license, according to a review of online real estate databases.

Using a "thick" accent, Bacile said he used 60 actors and 45 crew members and that the project was shot in 2011 over three months in California. He called Islam a "cancer" and railed on the lack of security at the American embassies. He also said he planned to go into hiding as protests escalated.

Laura Rozen, who writes the Back Channel news blog for Al-Monitor, suggested that the name Sam Bacile may be a pseudonym for someone involved with the "Egyptian Coptic diaspora." Many people on Twitter have been attempting to figure out possible anagrams for the name, in case there might be a signal there. Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for the Atlantic, tweeted, "Would anyone in the Jewish Twittersphere who has ever met 'SamBacile' please speak up."

Though Bacile is a mystery, we do know a bit more about Steve Klein, who told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he was a "consultant" on Bacile's film. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the former Marine was part of the controversial California "Church at Kawea," near Fresno, and a member of a "secretive cohort of militant fundamentalists" preparing for war against Muslims in spring 2012. He believed that California was riddled with Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells "who are awaiting the trigger date and will begin randomly killing as many of us as they can."

Klein is currently listed as the "Secretary and Founder" of Courageous Christians United, a group that protests outside of Mormon temples, mosques and abortion clinics. Leah Nelson of the SPLC said Klein founded the group back in 1977. Multiple requests for comment from Courageous Christians United have gone unreturned, but Klein himself spoke with the Atlantic's Goldberg on Wednesday afternoon.

Klein told Goldberg that "Sam Bacile" is not a real name, nor is the man actually Israeli or Jewish. "All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms," Klein said. "I doubt he's Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign." Klein also told Goldberg that only 15 people were involved in the making of the film.

"I'm taking everything about this strange and horrible episode with a grain of salt," wrote Goldberg.

Amy Lemisch, the director of the California Film Commission, which issues permits for films that shoot in the state, told The Huffington Post no permits were given to anyone by the name of "Sam Bacile," nor to any project with the title of "Muslim Innocence" or "The Innocence of Muslims." If the filmmakers shot anything on state property, they would need a permit from the commission.

"We went to our internal database field," she said, "and we searched under 'innocence' or 'Muslims,' and we did not issue a permit for it."

A film with a supposed $5 million budget -- no small change for an independent project -- and a 45-member crew would be difficult to shoot under the radar, Lemisch said.

"It means they didn't shoot on state property, a state park or a state beach," she said. "They could have shot and didn't tell anybody, or a Ranger didn't catch them. But that would be pretty hard to do without getting a permit, unless they were in the middle of the desert on private property."

It's possible the filmmakers requested permits from local commissions, though without knowing where the film was shot, it's difficult to tell. HuffPost has reached out to other local commissions in California and is awaiting comment. But judging by the film itself, most of the "desert" scenes occurred in front of a green screen, so they could have been shot anywhere.

UPDATE: Gawker interviewed Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actresses from the film, who is living in Bakersfield, California. She says she was never told that the film was a spoof of Muhammed. The casting notice she had originally received from her agent was titled "Desert Warriors." She said the director called himself "Sam Bacile," and he claimed he was an Israeli real estate mogul. But Garcia said Bacile told her on set that he was actually Egyptian. Read the rest of this bizarre story on Gawker here.

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Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Kandil told CNN that some people involved in the recent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were paid to protest. He also said that some were there on their own accord, though.

For more on his comments, click here.

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Both Libyans and "foreigners" carried out the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, said Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf.

"We have assumptions and we have some information, and all that information we have now leads to the same direction about the perpetrators, the criminals," he told NBC.

For more on Magariaf's comments, click here.

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A local security official walked CNN through the horrific attacks in Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead. Read the report here.

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@ JomanaCNN : One senior official just told me they have no evidence yet to support President's statements that attack was pre-planned. #Libya

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From the AP:

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Saturday ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential U.S. government personnel from posts in Sudan and Tunisia and is issuing travel warnings to American citizens in the two countries due to security concerns over anti-American violence.

"Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens," said Victoria Nuland, a department spokeswoman.

To read more, click here.

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anti islam film

In this image from video provided by CBS2-KCAL9, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the anti-Muslim movie that has inflamed the Middle East, is escorted by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies from his home, early Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Cerritos, Calif. Nakoula, 55, was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff's station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday. (AP Photo/CBS2-KCAL9)

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camp bastion

This image from AP video obtained from the SITE Intel Group posted by al-Emarah Jihadi Studio, an Afghan Taliban media unit who released two clips on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, purports to show smoke rising over Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, after what the Taliban media unit says is an attack at the base. (AP Photo/SITE Intelligence Group)

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According to an AFP report, a far-right group in Germany wants to screen 'Innocence of Muslims,' the film that sparked protests around the world, in Berlin.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Der Spiegel he would use every legal means at his disposal to stop them.

“Such groups and organizations only want to provoke Germany’s Muslims,” he said, accusing them of recklessly pouring oil on the fire.

Read the full story here.

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libya attack

President Mohammed el-Megarif, fourth right, meets an unidentified Libyan guard of the U.S. Consulate who was wounded following the deadly attack on September 11, 2012, at Benghazi Medical Center in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo)

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Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority on Saturday condemned the attacks on U.S. embassies as un-Islamic, according to a report by Reuters.

"It is forbidden to punish the innocent for the wicked crimes of the guilty, or to attack those who have been granted protection of their lives and property, or to expose public buildings to fire or destruction," he said in a speech carried by state news agency SPA.

Read the full report here.

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@ AliTweel : 64 pictures from 12/09/2012 demonstration in #Tripoli against violence and condemnation of US consulate attack https://t.co/Q2CY4FFF #Libya

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Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore urged Muslims to refrain from violence on Saturday. From the AP:

Compaore, who is a convert to Islam, said that violence should not be the response of Muslims to provocations, even from the maker of the film of the Prophet Muhammad. Compaore described the filmmaker as a “brainless man who thinks he has the right to despise the religious feelings of others.”

Compaore deplored the street violence of recent days, saying the “credibility and greatness” of Islam is not through violence.

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"There is no religion that condones the targeting of innocent men and women. There is no excuse for attacks on our embassies and consulates. So long as I am commander-in-chief, the United States will never tolerate efforts to harm our fellow Americans."

Watch Obama's full remarks here:

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KHARTOUM, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Sudan has rejected a U.S. request to send a platoon of Marines to bolster security at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, the state news agency SUNA said on Saturday.

On Friday, a U.S. official told Reuters that Washington would send Marines to Sudan to improve security at the embassy after protesters entered the mission in a demonstration against a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad.

"Sudan is able to protect the diplomatic missions in Khartoum and the state is committed to protecting its guests in the diplomatic corps," Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti told SUNA. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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@ latimes : People linked to 'Innocence of Muslims' receive death threats, consultant says http://t.co/gSdQXFDp

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afghanistan protest

Afghans burn an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama during a protest in Khost, south-east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. A few hundred university students protested against an anti-Islam film which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman, shouting "death to America." (AP Photo/Nashanuddin Khan)

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From Reuters:

Afghanistan's Taliban claimed responsibility on Saturday for an attack on a base which U.S. officials said killed two American Marines, saying it was in response to a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad.

Camp Bastion, in southern Helmand province, came under mortar, rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire late on Friday in an attack in which several servicemen were wounded.

"The aim of this attack was revenge against Americans for the anti-Prophet movie," said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf.

Read more here.

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From the Associated Press:

Riot police clashed with about 200 protesters at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney on Saturday as demonstrations against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States spread to Australia.

Ten Network television news showed a policeman knocked unconscious as the mostly male crowd hurled bottles and other missiles. Many of the protesters were wearing Muslim dress.

Police used pepper spray against the protesters, who chanted "Obama, Obama, we love Osama" and waved placards saying "Behead all those who insult the Prophet."

Read more here.

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From the Associated Press:

Tunisia's governing moderate Islamist party condemned an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the neighboring American school, saying such violence threatens the country's progress toward democracy after decades of dictatorship.

Read more here.

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From the Associated Press:

The U.S. is sending more spies, Marines and drones to Libya, trying to speed the search for those who killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but the investigation is complicated by a chaotic security picture in the post-revolutionary country, and limited American and Libyan intelligence resources.

The CIA has fewer people available to send, stretched thin from tracking conflicts across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Read more here.

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From the Associated Press:

Pope Benedict XVI appealed Saturday for religious freedom in the Middle East, calling it fundamental for stability in a region bloodied by sectarian strife.

Benedict spoke on the second day of his visit to Lebanon, a country with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East. He arrived amid a wave of violent demonstrations over an anti-Islam film across the Muslim world.

"Let us not forget that religious freedom is a fundamental right from which many other rights stem," he said, speaking in French to government officials, foreign diplomats and religious leaders at the president palace in Mount Lebanon in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Read the whole story here.

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From Reuters:

Clashes near the U.S. Embassy in central Cairo between police and Egyptians incensed over a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammad entered their fourth day early on Saturday, leaving one protester dead and dozens more injured.

The clashes moved to a main road on the banks of the Nile after authorities closed the street leading to the embassy. The protesters, many of whom are intent upon breaking into the embassy, now are seeking alternative routes to the site.

Read the full story here.

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From Reuters:

At least two people were killed and 29 others were wounded on Friday when police fought hundreds of protesters who ransacked the U.S. embassy in Tunisia in their fury over a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammad, state television said.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki condemned what he called "an attack against the embassy of a friendly nation".

Read the full story here.

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From the Associated Press:

A U.S. official says an elite Marine rapid response team is headed to Sudan in the wake of violence and protests against the embassy in Khartoum.

The deployment comes as Sudanese police opened fire on protesters trying to climb the walls of the U.S. Embassy.

Read the full story here.

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A 35-year-old protester was killed in the Egyptian capital on Friday as hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy clashed with police.

Read the full story here.

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U.S. officials say 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is being investigated for probation violations.

"A source with knowledge of the case confirmed that the probation office was looking specifically into Nakoula's possible involvement in making the film for violations of the terms of his release."

Read the full story here.

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AP video shows a group gathering to protest the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya:

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@ Reuters : Google rejects White House request to pull Mohammad film clip http://t.co/yi0s0288

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@ AP : BREAKING: US official says 2 Marines killed in attack on NATO base in Afghanistan

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"The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob," Clinton said on Friday at a ceremony for the Americans slain in Libya.

arab protests clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, accompanied by President Barack Obama, speaks during a Transfer of Remains Ceremony, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., marking the return to the United States of the remains of the four Americans killed this week in Benghazi, Libya. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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