Probe Anti-Muslim Video Makers

Law enforcers should determine whether those who made the anti-Muslim video generating deadly anti-American protests through the Middle East conspired for other motives besides  their seeming insane hatred for Muslims.

They may also want to create re-election problems for President Obama similar to the hostage crisis that helped thwart Jimmy Carter's 1980 re-election campaign. Excerpted below are columns about several of the more relevant developments. I am not able to pursue the story for the time being, but want to provide context for readers by excerpting the work of others. 

Karen Breitweiser, a widow of a 9/11 victim and activist on related investigative issues, posed important initial questions that official investigators should pursue. Her column published by the Huffington Post was, Libyan Consulate Attack: Who's to Blame? Her questions are excerpted at length below.

 

Commentator Max Blumenthal pulled together the latest for The Guardian in, Inside The Strange Hollywood Scam That Spread Chaos Across The Middle East, excerpted below.

Also, Reuters reported, U.S. investigating man linked to anti-Islam film. Its report said: The obscure 13-minute English-language video, which was filmed in California and circulated on the Internet under several titles including "Innocence of Muslims," portrays the Prophet Mohammad engaged in crude and offensive behavior. The film sparked a violent protest at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday, although U.S. officials have said the attack may have been planned and organized in advance. Protests have spread to other countries across the Arab and Muslim world. For many Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous. Caricatures deemed insulting in the past have provoked protests and drawn condemnations from officials, preachers, ordinary Muslims and many Christians in the Middle East.

For context, the amateur-level production is better described as a "video" than a "film." The latter implies higher production values and wider distribution than apparent here, and is thus more inflammatory to rioters, especially in nations where the conventional media is under clear-cut state control. More substantively, emerging details about the so-called "film makers" suggest they are fringe players of scant means who undertook the operation on behalf of others. The questions are: Who? Why?

From what's been reported, federal authorities apparently have moved only slowly to investigate. They doubtless fear criticism that a probe might be peceived as political, and violate the "free speech" and "freedom of religion" issues for the "film" makers and their backers. But those should be temporary obstacles, given the deadly consequences of the video. I predict that authorities will move forward. Many national security cases covered here involve far less harm or innocent suspects, yet reveal how much investigative firepower the federal government has at its disposal when it choose to use it. 

Readers are invited to submit for inclusion additional column excerpts (in the same format, including a hot link) on this developing story.

In other important news, former U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham published a column calling for a reopening of the 9/11 investigation. Graham co-chaired the joint Senate-House investigative committee, which he has described on my weekly radio show and elsewhere as hamstrung by artificially tight deadline and withheld evidence. His column last week was, Re-Open the 9/11 Investigation Now.

 

 

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Related News Coverage

 

Salon, Rumor-mongering surrounds Chris Stevens’ death; Right-wing blogs continue to speculate about the ambassador's demise, Jillian Rayfield, Sept. 17, 2012. Since Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, there’s been no end of speculation about the exact circumstances of his death. Here’s what we know: American officials are still investigating what happened between the time Stevens was separated from his security detail, and when he was pronounced dead at the hospital. From the New York Times: "Officials in Washington said they were investigating that blacked-out period, but as they conduct that inquiry, witnesses have emerged who said that Mr. Stevens had fled to a room in the diplomatic compound, hoping to find safety behind a locked iron gate and wooden door. But fires raged around the mission, and Mr. Stevens, unable to escape the smoke and heat, died of asphyxiation.”

The Guardian (United Kingdom) / OpEd News, Inside The Strange Hollywood Scam That Spread Chaos Across The Middle East, Max Blumenthal, Sept. 16, 2012. A group of rightwing extremists aimed to destabilize post-Mubarak Egypt and roil US politicians. They got their wish....A patrician moderate constantly on the defensive against his own right flank, Romney fell for the bait, baselessly accusing Obama of "sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks" and of issuing "an apology for America's values." The clumsy broadside backfired in dramatic fashion, opening Romney to strident criticism from across the spectrum, including from embarrassed Republican members of Congress. Obama wasted no time in authorizing a round of drone strikes on targets across Libya, which are likely to deepen regional hostility to the US.

A group of fringe extremists had proven that with a little bit of money and an unbelievably cynical scam, they could shape history to fit their apocalyptic vision. But in the end, they were not immune to the violence they incited. According to Copts Today, an Arabic news outlet focusing on Coptic affairs, [radical Coptic separatist Morris Sadek] was seen taking a leisurely stroll down Washington's M Street on September 11, soaking in the sun on a perfect autumn day. All of a sudden, he found himself surrounded by four angry Coptic women. Berating Sadek for fueling the flames of sectarian violence, the women took off their heels and began beating him over the head. "If anything happens to a Christian in Egypt," one of them shouted at him, "you'll be the reason!"

 

Reuters, U.S. investigating man linked to anti-Islam film, Alex Dobuzinskis, Sept. 14, 2012. A California man convicted of bank fraud is under investigation for possible probation violations stemming from the making of an anti-Islam video that triggered violent protests against the United States in the Muslim world, U.S. officials said on Friday. The man, 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, told his Coptic Christian bishop that he was not involved in the film, but media reports have widely linked his name to the video. "The U.S. probation office in the central district of California is reviewing the case," said Karen Redmond, spokeswoman for the administrative office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C., reached by phone from Los Angeles. 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.

Huffington Post, Re-Open the 9/11 Investigation Now, Bob Graham and Sharon Premoli, Sept. 11, 2012. The passage of time since September 11, 2001, has not diminished the distrust many of us feel surrounding the official story of how 9/11 happened and, more specifically, who financed and supported it. After eleven years, the time has come for the families of the victims, the survivors and all Americans to get the whole story behind 9/11. Yet the story of who may have facilitated the 19 hijackers and the infrastructure that supported the attacks -- a crucial element of the narrative -- has not been told. The pieces we do have underscore how much more remains unknown. [Editor's Note: Bob Graham is a former U.S. Senator from Florida, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-Chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11. He is the author of two books on 9/11. Sharon Premoli, a survivor of the attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center, now runs the website Justiceagainstterrorism.net.]

Max Blumenthal, Meet The Right-Wing Extremist Behind Anti-Muslim Film That Sparked Deadly Riots, Sept. 12, 2012. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three US diplomats were killed in attacks and rioting provoked by an obscure, low-budget anti-Muslim film called “The Innocence of Muslims.” The producer of the film is a real estate developer supposedly named “Sam Bacile” who claims to be an Israeli Jew. Bacile told the AP the film was made with $5 million raised from “100 Jewish donors.” He said he was motivated to help his native country, Israel, by exposing the evils of Islam. 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. Klein claims credit for inspiring “Sam Bacile” to produce “The Innocence of Muslims,” promising him he would be “the next Theo Van Gogh,” referring to the Dutch columnist who was murdered by a Muslim extremist. Of the attacks in Libya, Klein said, “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”

Newsmax, Obama Camp Uses Movie as Scapegoat, James Hirsen, Sept. 17, 2012. Over the last three-plus years, the Obama administration has taken the blame game to a new low.
The most recent scapegoat that has been fashioned by the administration and affirmed by its mainstream media cohorts is some crudely produced film footage, upon which blame has been heaped for the assault on our embassies and the murders of the U.S. ambassador to Libya along with three of our fellow Americans. Obama’s defense forces in the mainstream media have promulgated the narrative that on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, 400 people stormed a U.S. embassy as an expression of outrage over a movie trailer. Absent from the narrative script was the mention of the insidious paramilitary nature of the operation and the mortars and rocket-propelled grenades that were utilized. Also omitted was the fact that the militants knew where to go to carry out their heinous acts. They knew that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was not at the embassy in Tripoli but instead had gone to the consulate in Benghazi. The attackers knew, too, that the ambassador had been transported to a “safe house.” And they additionally knew the whereabouts of the facility so that redirection of the assault could be accomplished. The initial and official reaction of the United States to the attack on the embassy in Egypt was to focus on the film footage. The statement by the U.S. embassy in Cairo included a condemnation of the “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” espite the possible “act of war” characteristics of the assault against the U.S. in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could not stop talking about the movie that was supposedly to blame.

Info-Wars/Tarpley Net, Romney Campaign, CIA Mormon Mafia, John Bolton’s Islamophobia Network Stir Middle East Chaos to Get October Surprise Against Obama, Interview of Webster Tarpley by Alex Jones, Sept. 16, 2012. (audio only). CIA’s Gitmo-Trained Asset Qumu Prime Suspect in Death of Ambassador Stevens.

New York Times, Turmoil Over Contentious Video Spreads to Yemen and Iran, Nasser Arrabyee and Alan Cowell, Sept. 14, 2012. Protesters sought to storm the United States embassy during a protest against an anti-Islamic film in Sana on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Turmoil in the Arab world linked to an American-made video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad spread on Thursday to Yemen, where hundreds of protesters attacked the American Embassy, two days after assailants killed four Americans in Libya, including the ambassador, and crowds tried to overrun the embassy compound in Cairo.

Associated Press / Huffington Post, Steve Klein & 'Innocence Of Muslims': Film Promoter Remains Outspoken On Islam, Gillian Flaccus, Sept. 13, 2012. The public face for the anti-Muslim film inflaming the Middle East is not the filmmaker, but an insurance agent and Vietnam War veteran whose unabashed and outspoken hatred of radical Muslims has drawn the attention of civil libertarians, who say he's a hate monger. With the Coptic Christian filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in hiding, film promoter Steve Klein has taken center stage in the unfolding international drama. He's given a stream of interviews about the film and the man he says he knew only as Sam Bacile, and is using the attention to talk about his own political views. Nakoula, who used Bacile spelled multiple ways as a pseudonym, contacted Klein months ago for advice about the limits of American free speech and asked for help vetting the movie's script, Klein said in an interview with The Associated Press. The filmmaker asked the 61-year-old grandfather if he would act as a spokesman if the film "caught on," and he agreed. The role dovetailed with Klein's relentless pursuit of radical Muslims in America, an activity he says he began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It took on more meaning in 2007, when his son, then a 27-year-old Army staff sergeant, was seriously injured in Iraq. Matthew Klein, a medic, was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered in the attack by a suicide bomber, according to the Army Human Resources Command.

 

Washington Post, Libya’s volatility keeping FBI agents from probing attack, Sari Horwitz, Sept. 14, 2012. A team of FBI agents assigned to investigate the deaths of four Americans in Libya has not been able to get into the country because of the volatile situation there, according to law enforcement officials.

Huffington Post, Libyan Consulate Attack: Who's to Blame? Kristen Breitweiser (9/11 widow and activist), Sept. 12, 2012. Yesterday, I spent the day walking the beach and quietly reflecting about my husband, who was killed on September 11th. Eleven years later, I am finally able to find my own peace. By stark contrast, I woke up this morning to the news of four Americans killed in Libya and protests in Cairo. And, I asked myself "how could this have happened?"  Many people will assuredly believe that the only people to blame for this deadly violence are the Muslims who did it. And undoubtedly, those who carried out this horrendous act are guilty.  But please remain mindful that the Muslims might not be the only ones responsible.  After reading reports including Al Jazeera's coverage below, some immediate questions came to my mind and I hope all Americans will demand the answers to these questions:

1. Who are the alleged "over 100 Jewish donors" who financed this film? Will they be sending their condolences to the families of the four Americans killed because of their film? Will they in any way be publicly held accountable for their support of this film and its message?

2. Will Sam Bacile, the filmmaker, and Morris Sadek, the film's promoter, be held accountable for their seeming incitement of terrorist acts against U.S. interests abroad?

3. Who allegedly translated this film into Arabic since it was originally not available in Arabic?

4. Specifically, how did this film get released and made available to Libyan and Egyptian youth on September 11th, particularly since it was apparently not readily available to them online in its full form?  In effect, in my opinion, somebody "pushed" this film out there to incite and spread hatred and rage in the Middle East on September 11th, and the identity of the person or organization behind this plot should be exposed and held accountable.

5. Given the broad and sweeping powers of the U.S. Patriot Act (an Act that I despise), will the U.S. government be electronically "backtracking" and investigating who is responsible for the creation, translation, and distribution of this film that has incited the senseless killings of four Americans? And will the families of those killed be able to hold any and all of these individuals or organizations accountable in an open court of law?

Finally, I offer my sincere condolences to the families of those killed yesterday; it breaks my heart to witness such violent acts particularly on the anniversary of September 11th.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Huffington Post, Overcrowding In Federal Prisons Harms Inmates, Guards: GAO Report, Michael McLaughlin, Sept. 14, 2012. The federal prison system has been unable to keep pace with the stream of inmates flooding its facilities over the last five years despite adding space for thousands of new convicts, according to a government report. The ballooning incarcerated population puts inmates and guards in danger and holds back efforts to rehabilitate convicts, experts told HuffPost. The already-taxed Bureau of Prisons network swelled to 39 percent above capacity through last September, and is expected to surge to more than 45 percent above its limit in 2018, says the Government Accountability Office report, entitled "Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure." The report was released on Wednesday. Last year's overcrowding level was the highest since 2004, when federal prisons were 41 percent above maximum levels -- called the "rated capacity." Wardens may see a spike in violence as more inmates are squeezed into tight living quarters, researchers warned. The overcrowding contributes "to increased inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of inmates and staff," according to the report.

Huffington Post, John Roberts Health Care Switch Detailed By Jeffrey Toobin In New Book, Mollie Reilly, September 15, 2012. Three months after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling on President Obama's health care law, new details have emerged on Chief Justice John Roberts' controversial vote in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act. According to excerpts of a new book by New Yorker writer and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin published in Politico's Playbook on Saturday, Roberts had originally intended to side with his fellow conservatives on the court and overturn the law. However, Roberts' position turned "wobbly" as he considered the implications the ruling would have on his legacy. Toobin writes that Roberts became increasingly uncomfortable with overturning the entire law, and instead sought out a "middle ground." He found that middle ground in arguing in his majority opinion that the individual mandate "need not be read to do more than impose a tax," thus falling within Congress' power to collect taxes. The switch, according to Toobin, "enraged" Justice Antonin Scalia. In recent interviews, Scalia has insisted that there's no bad blood on the court. And, as Toobin points out, Roberts' ruling could come as a boon to conservatives.

Three months after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling on President Obama's health care law, new details have emerged on Chief Justice John Roberts' controversial vote in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act.

Legal Schnauzer, Joe Scarborough Country: Autopsy on Lori Klausutis Leaves Out Critical Details About a Mysterious Death, Roger Shuler, Sept. 14, 2012. The autopsy of Lori Klausutis makes no reference to a time of death. That raises new questions about an investigation that started when the 28-year-old woman's body was found in the office of then U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough in summer 2001. Accidental death was the official finding in the Klausutis case, with a cardiac arrhythmia causing her to fall and hit her head on a desk. But the recent discovery of human remains at a storage unit in Pensacola, Florida, casts doubt on that ruling. That's because the storage unit was rented by Dr. Michael Berkland, the man who conducted the Klausutis autopsy 11 years earlier.

Wired, Anonymous’ Barrett Brown Raided by FBI During Online Chat, Kim Zetter, Sept. 13, 2012. For the second time this year, self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown was raided by the FBI. The latest dramatic incident occurred late Wednesday evening while Brown and another woman identified by some as his girlfriend were participating in an online chat on TinyChat with other individuals. Two minutes into the recorded chat session, loud voices could be heard in the background of Brown’s residence in Texas while the woman in the room with him was in front of the computer screen. She quickly closed the computer screen, but the audio continued to capture events in the room as the FBI appeared to strong-arm Brown to put handcuffs on him. Brown could be heard yelling in the background. A spokeswoman in the Dallas County sherriff’s office confirmed to Wired that Brown was raided last night and was booked into the county jail around 11 p.m. She said the FBI removed him from the jail this morning to take him to a different facility, but she did not know where he was headed. Brown’s latest raid came after he posted a long and rambling YouTube video in which he talked about taking drugs (though not today, he noted) and about retaliating against an FBI Agent named Robert Smith after he learned that his mother might be hit with obstruction of justice charges. The threat of charges was apparently related to a laptop of Brown’s that he apparently hid.

 

John Heilemann, Don’t Say 'Desperate,' New York Magazine, Sept. 14, 2012. Muslim unrest has created a challenge for Obama and the nation—and a different kind of crisis for the Romney campaign. Moments like this are not uncommon in presidential elections, and when they come, they tend to matter. For unlike the posturing and platitudes that constitute the bulk of what occurs on the campaign trail, big external events provide voters with something authentic and valuable: a real-time test of the temperament, character, and instincts of the men who would be commander-in-chief. And when it comes to the past week, the divergence between the resulting report cards could hardly be more stark....Here was America under attack, with four dead on foreign soil. And here was Romney, defiantly refusing to adopt a tone of sobriety, solemnity, or seriousness, instead attempting to score cheap political points, doubling down on his criticism from the night before that the Obama administration had been “disgraceful” for “sympathiz[ing]” with the attackers—criticism willfully ignoring the chronology of events, the source of the statement he was pillorying, the substance of the statement, and the circumstances under which it was made. That the left heaped scorn on Romney’s gambit came as no surprise. But the right reacted almost as harshly—with former aides to John McCain, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan creating an on-the-record chorus of disapproval, while countless other Republican officials and operatives chimed in anonymously. “This is worse than a Lehman moment,” says a senior GOP operative. “McCain made mistakes of impulsiveness, but this was a deliberate and premeditated move, and it totally revealed Romney’s character; it revealed him as completely craven and his candidacy as serving no higher purpose than his ambition.”