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Who Is Sam Bacile? Mystery of Anti-Islam Filmmaker's Link to Libya Embassy Riots Deepens

Libya 9/12 Man with rifle - H 2012
Getty Images

The attacks that killed the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three others, supposedly inspired by an anti-Islam movie, may not be as clear cut as initially thought.

As the dust settles on the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the truth about nearly every aspect of the tragedy remains up in the air.

The riots, which also took place on a smaller scale in Cairo, initially were thought to be inspired by a little-seen, cheaply made amateur film called Innocence of Muslims. It supposedly was written and directed by Sam Bacile, who claims to be Israeli and says he made it on a $5 million budget raised from 100 Jewish donors. The film supposedly screened once in July at an empty Los Angeles theater, and it was not until a trailer, dubbed in Arabic, began circulating online that it caused stirred any anger.

However, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that no one named Sam Bacile is registered to the Directors Guild of America and that the online footage does not appear to show a budget larger than independently financed films that win awards at festivals. SAG-AFTRA tells THR that the production is not a signatory to a guild agreement and thus likely did not use members of Hollywood's major actors union.

Additionally, Israeli officials told The Associated Press that they had never heard of Sam Bacile, and no record exists of his citizenship.

In a report for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg spoke to a militant Christian from Riverside, Calif., named Steve Klein, who says he had a consulting role on the film. He cast doubt on Bacile's story.

"I don't know that much about him," Klein said. "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 Quran-burning radical Christian 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."

Jones is tied to the project in that, as a radical pastor, he has begun actively promoting the film, promising to host screenings at his Florida church. He has gained infamy for holding Quran burnings, which caused riots in Afghanistan, and also has hanged President Obama in effigy.

Klein added that he believed that the people funding the project were not Israeli, but from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt. He added that they probably were Coptic Egyptians and Evangelicals.

Further, there is doubt that the film was even the cause of the attacks that claimed the life of Stevens and the three other Americans.

CNN is reporting that an attack such as the one that killed Stevens, with rocket-launched grenades, would have required pre-planning and likely is the work of al-Qaida in North Africa. That group swore revenge for the June killing of a senior leader of the terror group Abu Yahya al-Libi and has struck in Benghazi before.

There remains the possibility that the protest was organic and that the attackers used it as a diversion for their more devastating actions.