It turns out now that the amateurish hate film that sparked the lethal riots in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen -- or at least, in the case of the Libya murders, provided a pretext -- is a product of the fetid, far-right underbelly of American politics. And it seems that not only did the Islamophobic far-right militiamen behind the movie make it with the explicit intent of sparking riots abroad, but they even attempted to pin the blame for its production on Israeli Jews.
The Associated Press reports on the identity of the filmmakers:
The person who identified himself as Bacile and described himself as the film's writer and director told the AP on Tuesday that he had gone into hiding. But doubts rose about the man's identity amid a flurry of false claims about his background and role in the purported film.
Bacile told the AP he was an Israeli-born, 56-year-old Jewish writer and director. But a Christian activist involved in the film project, Steve Klein, told the AP on Wednesday that Bacile was a pseudonym and that he was Christian.
Klein had told the AP on Tuesday that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew who was concerned for family members who live in Egypt.
CBS' Bill Whitaker has more.
But who is Steve Klein? Max Blumenthal tells us:
While Bacile claims to be in hiding, and his identity remains murky, another character who has been publicly listed as a consultant on the film is a known anti-Muslim activist with ties to the extreme Christian right and the militia movement. He is Steve Klein, a Hemet, California based insurance salesman who claims to have led a “hunter-killer team” in Vietnam.”
Klein is a right-wing extremist who emerged from the same axis of Islamophobia that produced Anders Behring Breivik and which takes inspiration from the writings of Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Daniel Pipes.
It appears Klein (or someone who shares his name and views) is an enthusiastic commenter on Geller’s website, Atlas Shrugged, where he recently complained about Mitt Romney’s “support for a Muslim state in Israel’s Heartland.” In July 2011, Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized alongside the anti-Muslim Coptic extremist Joseph Nasrallah to demand the firing of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, whom they painted as a dupe for Hamas.
Indeed, Klein's activities as a "Christian militiaman" were the focus of an astonishing SPLC report filed this spring by C&L's own Leah Nelson:
In a 22-acre compound at the southern edge of Sequoia National Park in California, a secretive cohort of militant Christian fundamentalists is preparing for war. One of the men helping train the flock in the art of combat, a former Marine named Steve Klein, believes that California is riddled with Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells “who are awaiting the trigger date and will begin randomly killing as many of us as they can.”
“I know I’m getting prepared to shoot back,” Klein says.
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At the head of the Church at Kaweah is Pastor Warren Mark Campbell, who sees yet another enemy on the horizon: the “New World Order,” that chimera of the conspiracists who populate the resurgent, antigovernment “Patriot” movement.
The tiny church has been well outside the mainstream since the early 1990s, when founding pastor Warren Lee Campbell (father of the current pastor) bought into the notion that churches should shun all government regulation and answer solely to God. Since then, the church has become increasingly radical, ramping up its paramilitary activities and forging alliances with an array of figures revered on the radical right — among them, militia and Patriot leaders, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, border vigilantes and Christian Reconstructionists, whose goal is to turn America into a theocracy based on the Old Testament. In the meantime, the church’s militia has gone from patrolling the banks of the Kaweah River to conducting joint exercises with Minuteman groups along the Mexican border.
Campbell's church, as Nelson details painstakingly, has a long history of connections to the far right, particularly the Patriot/militia movement in the 1990s, and its descendants in the years since. One of those descendants is Klein:
Over the past year, Johnson and the church militia have developed a relationship with Steve Klein, a longtime religious-right activist who brags about having led a “hunter killer” team as a Marine in Vietnam. Klein, who calls Islam a “penis-driven religion” and thinks Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca is a Muslim Brotherhood patsy, is allied with Christian activist groups across California. In 2011, as head of the Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, he worked with the Vista, Calif.-based Christian Anti-Defamation Commission on a campaign to “arm” students with the “truth about Islam and Muhammad” — mainly by leafleting high schools with literature depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a sex-crazed pedophile.
Klein, based in Hemet, Calif., has been active in extremist movements for decades. In 1977, he founded Courageous Christians United, which now conducts “respectful confrontations” outside of abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. Klein also has ties to the Minuteman movement. In 2007, he sued the city of San Clemente for ordering him to stop leafleting cars with pamphlets opposing illegal immigration.
In addition to working with Johnson and the Church at Kaweah’s militia, Klein conducts drills with the Christian Guardians, a San Francisco-based group headed by Andrew Saqib James, an American-born Pakistani Christian who calls Islam “a giant crime syndicate” and hopes his group will become “the most feared militia in the world.” For the past year, the Church at Kaweah’s website has advertised joint trainings with the Christian Guardians and other likeminded groups. Based at the church’s sprawling grounds, the series of trainings is described as a “unique system of learning how to survive the Muslim Brotherhood as we teach the Christian Morality of Biblical Warfare.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast reports that "Bacile" is really a fellow named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and he has a long criminal record:
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.
Nakoula’s identity and involvement in the film was confirmed to the Associated Press by federal law-enforcement officials. Nakoula, who lives near Los Angeles, had claimed to numerous media outlets that the man who created and directed the film was an Israeli real estate developer named Sam Bacile. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Nakoula was a Coptic Christian convicted of federal bank fraud charges in 2010.
Meanwhile, Klein is perfectly content with the outcome of his intentional incendiarism:
"I could not have done a better job than what I have done to point out to the people of the world, and the vast majority of Muslims, just how dangerous these people are," he said.
He has no regrets for the violence it triggered. "People have asked me, 'Do I have blood on my hands?' No I don't. The blood's on their hands, not mine. "
Indeed, according to the AP report, this is exactly what they had hoped for:
Klein told the AP he vowed to help make the movie but warned the filmmaker that "you're going to be the next Theo van Gogh." Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after making a film that was perceived as insulting to Islam.
"We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen," Klein said.
So let's see ... you make an intentionally incendiary piece of propaganda knowing perfectly well that you're probably going to cost Americans their lives in so doing ... but you don't have their blood on your hands?
You may not think so, Mr. Klein, but the rest of the world does.