Tag Archives: middle east

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: The North Korean Connection

27 Aug

Given the current crisis over use of chemical weapons in Syria, here are excerpts from a recent story from NKNews.org on the origins of North Korean Syrian chemical warfare cooperation. (Full story on NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/north-korea-and-syrian-chemical-and-missile-programs/)

North Korea and Syrian chemical and missile programs

North Korean military experts are training Syria how to play with chemicals
Family Ties

Family Ties

BY NATE THAYER , JUNE 19, 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. – North Korean military experts are deployed on the frontlines of the war in Syria, providing key assistance to the Assad government’s chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs, according to foreign intelligence, sources within the Syrian resistance and independent analysts.

North Korean military assistance to Syria is part of a lengthy covert war that has quietly raged for a decade, leaving a trail of dead North Korean and Syrian military scientists.

The North Korean military advisors now in Syria provide components and technical expertise to Damascus to adapt North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles as delivery systems for their chemical weapons arsenal.

Captured chemical weapons equipment from Aleppo | Photo: Syrian Free Army

Captured chemical weapons equipment from Aleppo | Photo: Syrian Free Army

AL-SAFIR : A LONG AND CRITICAL HISTORY

At Syria’s biggest chemical weapons facility and missile base at al-Safir, 20 kilometers southeast of Aleppo in northern Syria, North Koreans have long been crucial to the development of the Syrian military program.

The sprawling ballistic missile and chemical weapons development facility was designed and built by North Korean engineers and specialists in the 1990s, and has since been frequently expanded.

(Full story on NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/north-korea-and-syrian-chemical-and-missile-programs/)

One Israeli assassin, a North Korean train explosion, dead Syrian scientists, fake Canadian passports, Dubai and New Zealand arrest warrants, and a poisoned Hamas guerrilla

21 Jun

A mysterious North Korean train explosion, dead Syrian missile scientists, fake Canadian passports, a poisoned Hamas terrorist, and the Israeli assassin: One curious tale in the bloody global spy war behind the Middle East conflict

An Israeli agent on a stolen Canadian passport spotted in Pyongyang raises eyebrows after Syrian weapons scientists are killed in a mysterious North Korean train explosion.

At the time, he was fleeing New Zealand charged with trying to steal the identity of a cerebral palsy victim. He later resurfaced with a fake beard on a French passport in Dubai in a hotel where a Hamas leader is assassinated.

Governments in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America all want to talk with the American born Zev Barkin.

Canada has been looking for him for a decade…or were they?

See full story and related stories on North Korean-Syrian clandestine activities at NKNews.org

Explosion aftermath in Ryongchon, North Korea that killed a dozen Syrian missile scientists. Israeli Mossad agent Zev Barkan, inset, who was reportedly in Pyongyang at the time

Explosion aftermath in Ryongchon, North Korea that killed a dozen Syrian missile scientists. Israeli Mossad agent Zev Barkan, inset, who was reportedly in Pyongyang at the time

BY NATE THAYER

JUNE 20, 2013

 NKNews.org

See full story and related stories on North Korean-Syrian clandestine activities at NKNews.org

 WASHINGTON D.C.—In the weeks after the mysterious Ryongchon train explosion that killed a dozen Syrian weapons scientists in North Korea on April 22, 2004, the Canadian Office of Foreign Affairs announced they were investigating reports that an Israeli Mossad spy travelling on a stolen Canadian passport was in North Korea at the time of the blast.

Zev William Barkan was last seen in late April in Pyongyang, North Korea, after travelling there from Beijing using a Canadian passport issued under the name Kevin William Hunter, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail and other media reports. The Canadian passport of Kevin William Hunter was said to have been reported stolen in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on April 11, 2004—11 days before the massive blast, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, at Ryongchon.

“Israel Mossad agent in North Korea? read the headline in the August 4 Jerusalem Post. “New Zealand passport scam takes Canadian twist.”€

The Canadian Press reported that “Federal officials are investigating whether a suspected Israeli spy is travelling in Asia on a stolen Canadian passport.”€

It said “agencies are checking allegations that Zev William Barkan – embroiled in a New Zealand espionage caper – is using a Canadian passport issued under the name Kevin William Hunter.”€

“That part of the story’s being checked,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron. “All of that being put together, we should have a clearer picture.”€

He told Canadian CTV television that “We are checking the information. We know some of the answers but not all of them and we are determined to get to the bottom of this.”

Governments on five continents have been seeking answers on the clandestine shenanigans of American born Mossad agent Zev Barkan for more than a decade.

TINKER, SAILOR, TOLD’YA HE’S A SPY

Barkan was at the time wanted by police in New Zealand in an espionage scandal that had erupted in the weeks before the North Korean train explosion.

The rare public spy scandal captured New Zealand headlines on April 17, 2004 when two Israeli Mossad agents were charged with attempting to illegally obtain New Zealand passports for the use of the Mossad operative Zev Barkan. When two other Mossad operatives were arrested, Barkan, who was in New Zealand between March 3 and 20th, vanished.

As part of the elaborate forged passport ring, Barkan attempted to assume the identity of a severely disabled New Zealand man with cerebral palsy.  He obtained the man’s birth certificate and applied for a passport under the New Zealander’s name and submitting Barkan’s real photograph, but his American accent raised the suspicions of a New Zealand official which sparked authorities to investigate.

The two Israeli Mossad spies who were arrested and jailed in New Zealand for attempted to obtain a fraudulent passport for Barkan in 2004 appear in an Auckland court. Barkan vanished

The two Israeli Mossad spies who were arrested and jailed in New Zealand for attempted to obtain a fraudulent passport for Barkan in 2004 appear in an Auckland court. Barkan vanished

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff told New Zealand radio that Barkan was a former Israel Defense Force diver and Israeli agent assigned to Israeli embassies in Vienna and Brussels between 1993 and 2001.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has said there was “no doubt whatsoever” that the men were spies.

Secret cables from the American embassy in New Zealand confirmed that U.S. officials knew the arrested men were Mossad agents. “We have very strong grounds for believing these are Israeli intelligence agents,” the cable, released in 2009 by WikiLeaks, said. “While Prime Minister Helen Clark would not confirm which service employed the men, she noted that if one were to lay espionage charges then one would have to be prepared to offer the kind of evidence in court which our intelligence agencies do not like coming forward to display.”€

Zev William Barkan

Zev William Barkan

One New Zealand news organization reported that  “Barkan is being investigated by Macau and Chinese Immigration for his movements in April/May. The investigation includes his alleged use of the U.S. passport in the name of Zev Barkan and a second Canadian passport in the name of Kevin Hunter – which was stolen in Guangzhou China on April 11th.”€

 From New Zealand To Pyongyang

The court arraignments on April 16 revealed the arrest of the two Israeli’s on charges of attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport, but Zev William Barkan had “fled the country and authorities concede they would not know where to find him.”

But soon reports emerged which placed Barkan, now travelling on a stolen Canadian passport, in Pyongyang in late April, according to the Australian Sydney Morning Herald and other media.

And in the ensuing weeks, months, and years, the unlikely saga only became more curious .

New Zealand, Canadian, Israeli and Australian media reported that Mossad agent Zev William Barkan was reported seen in Pyongyang working as a security adviser for the North Korean government€ where he was negotiating a contract to build a security wall along the border with China with Israeli-manufactured motion detectors and night vision equipment.

Unconfirmed accounts cited an “Asian-based NGO closely linked to New Zealand intelligence networks” at a conference in Japan on North Korean refugees saying Barkan and other Israeli agents had entered North Korea under the guise of security consultants in April.

New Zealand news site scoop.com quoted “a senior NGO chief executive with Global-Protect All Children” as saying “Barkan is there negotiating details of an extensive contract for design and technical equipment to support a security wall project, including- but by no means limited to -Israeli produced motion sensors and night vision equipment.”

“Barkan flew from Beijing to Pyongyang at the end of April. He was allegedly travelling on a Canadian passport issued in the name of Kevin Hunter, which had been reported stolen at the Canadian Consulate in the Southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in mid-April.”€

The account said Israeli experts were conducting a “feasibility study on a security fence along the 1500 KM North Korea China border.”

New Zealand believed Barkan “was trying to secure a ‘clean’ passport for use in a sensitive Israeli undercover operation in the region, less risky than a forged passport, “ according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Barkan was reported to have stolen the Canadian passport of Kevin William Hunter in Guangzhao, China and traveled to North Korea in April 2004

Barkan was reported to have stolen the Canadian passport of Kevin William Hunter in Guangzhao, China and traveled to North Korea in April 2004

ISRAELI-CANADIANS

Canada was already sensitive to Israel’s spy services carrying out black espionage operations under the cover of fraudulent Canadian passports. The Canadian investigation of Barkan followed another investigation Canada carried out only the previous week to determine why one of the two Israeli’s convicted in the passport scandal had used a Canadian passport, rather than an Israeli one, to enter New Zealand in 1999.

During his 2004 visit to New Zealand, he entered the country using his Israeli passport. Canadian authorities concluded that the arrested Mossad agent was a “legitimate citizen,” a dual Canadian-Israeli national, and that the Canadian passport he held was “genuine.”

But seven years earlier, in 1997, Israel-Canadian relations were severely strained after two Mossad agents carrying Canadian passports were caught trying to kill Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan. Mashal was injected in the ear with a poisonous toxin. Jordan immediately seized two Mossad agents posing as Canadian tourists and surrounded another six who had fled to the Israeli embassy.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal survived a Mossad assassination attempt when two agents posing as Canadian tourists squirted poison in his ear on an Amman Jordan street in 1997

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal survived a Mossad assassination attempt when two agents posing as Canadian tourists squirted poison in his ear on an Amman Jordan street in 1997

Under the threat of execution and an embarrassing public spectacle after being caught red handed, an Israeli doctor was dispatched by airplane to Amman with an antidote for the poison which was administered to the murder target Khaled Mashal, who survived. The deal forced Israel to release from prison Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

After that diplomatic embarrassment, Israel promised Canada in 1997 that it would cease using Canadian passports.

After the Canadian Foreign Ministry announced they were investigating reports that Barkan was travelling on a Canadian passport in North Korea, New Zealand’s foreign minister, Phil Goff, said: “I have read with interest the Canadians are following up allegations he may have traveled at some point on a stolen Canadian passport. When he came to New Zealand my understanding was he was travelling on a U.S. passport. Clearly there would be co-operation between police forces in different countries to try to get to the bottom of these things.”€

A 72 meter crater at explosion site in North Korea that registered 3.6 on the Richter scale in April 2004. Remnants of a mobile phone wrapped in duct tape were found nearby by investigators

A 72 meter crater at explosion site in North Korea that registered 3.6 on the Richter scale in April 2004. Remnants of a mobile phone wrapped in duct tape were found nearby by investigators

“The passports that Mossad agents tried to obtain illegally might have been reserved for an assassination operation in a third country, which would have caused irreparable damage to New Zealand,” Foreign Minister Phil Goff was also quoted speculating to the Israeli newspaper Haâaretz.

In July 2004, a New Zealand media outlet reported a detailed, but unconfirmed account of how the fugitive Mossad agent, Barkan had fled New Zealand to North Korea. In an article headlined “NGOs Claim Wanted Israeli Agent Barkan In North Korea”, the report said “Zev Barkan, the suspected Israeli Mossad agent on the run from New Zealand Police, has been sighted in North Korea, according to an Asian-based NGO closely linked to New Zealand intelligence networks.”€

The train car in North Korea where 12 Syrian missile scientists were killed in bomb blast transporting weapons destined for Syria

The train car in North Korea where 12 Syrian missile scientists were killed in bomb blast transporting weapons destined for Syria

The account went on to allege, “Zev William Barkan turned up in Pyongyang as an Israeli security adviser in April, within weeks of fleeing from New Zealand prior to a suspected Israeli spy ring being sprung for attempting to illegally acquire a New Zealand passport.”€

The reports of the pilfered Canadian passport in Guangzhou, the Chinese city near the North Korean border, was only 11 days before the blast at the Ryongchon train station.

On April 22, 2004, a massive explosion tore through the train station in Ryongchon, North Korea, nine hours after North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il passed through returning from a trip to China. Wide speculation that the blast was a botched assassination attempt has lingered for years.

BOOMTOWN

A number of sources say that North Korean investigators had concluded the explosion was an attempt on the leader’s life, but more logical evidence points to sabotage directed at the cargo of sophisticated missile components destined for Israel’s enemies in Syria.

The explosion destroyed 40 percent of the town and had the fingerprints of an Israeli intelligence operation. Within days, North Korean secret police from the Ministry of People’s Security, found that a rigged cell phone triggered the blast.

The epicenter of the explosion was in railroad cars where a dozen Syrian missile technicians working for the Syrian Center for Scientific Research were accompanying missile and other components toward to port of Nampo to be shipped to Damascus. All the Syrian scientists were killed. The SSRC is the secret government agency in charge of Syria’s nuclear, missile and chemical weapons development program.

Scenes of the devastation April 2004, Ryongchon North Korea

Scenes of the devastation April 2004, Ryongchon North Korea

On May 24, 2004, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported that a North Korean official visiting China said the North Korean National Security Agency had “concluded that rebellious forces had plotted the explosions.”€ The paper quoted North Korean sources saying security agencies had determined that a cell phone had been used to detonate the explosion and reported to the North Korean leader that “the use of cell phones should be banned for the sake of the leader’s safety.”

Indeed, five days earlier, on May 19th, North Korea abruptly halted the entire nationwide mobile phone service and confiscated all the 10,000 cell phones in the country. Mobile phone service was not resumed for another five years.

Reports emerged in the following days that North Korean investigators had found a damaged cell phone wrapped in duct tape near the site of the blast. Speculation among intelligence agencies and North Korean investigators was that Kim Jong-il, whose personal train had passed through the station nine hours earlier returning form a visit to China, was the target. Still widely unknown were the deaths of the Syrian weapons scientists and the destruction of their illicit cargo in the blast.

Israeli citizens Eli Cara (left) and Uriel Zoshe Kelman were sentenced to six months' jail for attempting to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports. Photo New Zealand Herald

Israeli citizens Eli Cara (left) and Uriel Zoshe Kelman were sentenced to six months’ jail for attempting to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports. Photo New Zealand Herald

In July, the two Israeli Mossad men in jail in Auckland were convicted in a New Zealand court of the Israeli intelligence passport acquiring scam and sentenced to six months imprisonment by the Auckland High Court. They were ordered to pay NZ $100,000 to a cerebral palsy charity.

New Zealand High Court Judge Justice Judith Potter said: “It’s difficult to see why anyone would want a false New Zealand passport unless it was intended to be used in a way ancillary to some other offending (law).” She said: “That offending is likely to be serious or perhaps very serious.”

The New Zealand judge may have been prescient.

In 2005, the year after the New Zealand passport scandal and the train explosion in North Korea, Barkan was back in the news, accused of trafficking in passports stolen from foreign tourists in Southeast Asia and was said to operate a security business in Thailand. “He goes to Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand and deals with gangs who rob tourists of their valuables and passports,” an aid worker told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Barkan is mostly interested in passports and there have been a number of Australian passports.”

After disappearing from New Zealand, unsubstantiated media reports in Australia and New Zealand placed  Barkan in Cambodia, accused of running a studio making snuff and porn movies in a town on the Mekong River North of the capital, Phnom Penh, where foreign students and tourists were lured by promises of movie stardom.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in a Dubai luxury hotel room in January 2010 by Mossad operatives using Australian, British, Irish, French and Dutch passports

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in a Dubai luxury hotel room in January 2010 by Mossad operatives using Australian, British, Irish, French and Dutch passports

In January 2010, Zev Barkan was again fingered by authorities–this time the government of Dubai—when a team of 32 Mossad agents carried out the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel room. Zev Barkan, using a forged French Passport under the name Eric Rissaneux, was caught on video wearing a fake beard, dressed in sports clothes and carrying a tennis racket, following the Hamas leader up the elevator and down the hallway to his room. Barkan then rented a room across the hall.

Dubai police chief publicly named the man using a French passport under the name Eric Rissaneux and other Mossad agents from the Kidon unit of the spy agency, responsible for assassinations and other special operations, as the culprits. There photographs were published and Interpol issued warrants for their arrest for murder.

Israeli American Zev Barkan in disguise on his forged French passport using the name Eric Rassineux

Israeli American Zev Barkan in disguise on his forged French passport using the name Eric Rassineux

At the time, Zev Barkan still had an outstanding arrest warrant in New Zealand for the passport scandal six years earlier.

The Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in a Dubai luxury hotel room in January 2010 by Mossad operatives using Australian, British, Irish, French and Dutch passports, many of them apparently surreptitiously copied from unsuspecting travelling tourists who now had warrants for their arrests for murder.

The killers were all caught on hotel and other video cameras, some dressed in wigs, observed frequently changing clothes, some carrying tennis rackets as they stalked the guerrilla leader from the lobby to the elevators to the hallway outside his room. Hotel surveillance camera’s observed the agents using forged electronic room keys to enter the Hamas leader’s room shortly before he returned. He was found suffocated the next day, a paralyzing drug had been injected into his thigh.

Hamas leader exiting hotel elevator in Dubai. Behind him is Mossad assassin Eric Rassineux

Hamas leader exiting hotel elevator in Dubai. Behind him is Mossad assassin Eric Rassineux

But the Israeli team was long gone, all 32 having departed Dubai airport for different cities in Europe within an hour of the assassination the previous evening.

In August 2010, Dubai police chief Lieutenant-General Dahi Khalfan Tamimut announced that an unnamed “non-European country” had told Dubai in July they had arrested a Mossad suspect in June for the January assassination, but  Lt-Gen Tamimut complained the Country had since refused to cooperate or provide details.

But then in October, Lt-Gen Tamimut, unhappy with the delay, named Canada as the “non-European country.”

“A senior Canadian security official here told me in July that they have made an arrest of one of the suspects,” Lt-Gen Tamimut told The Globe and Mail.

Zev William Barkan in the photo he gave New Zealand authorities to obtain fraudulent passport in 2004

Zev William Barkan in the photo he gave New Zealand authorities to obtain fraudulent passport in 2004

The photo used by Barkan for his fraudulent French passport used on 2010 mission to assassinate Hamas leader in Dubai

The photo used by Barkan for his fraudulent French passport used on 2010 mission to assassinate Hamas leader in Dubai

Superimposed photo of Eric Rassineux from Dubai police over photo of Barkan from New Zealand authorities. His facial features are identical

Superimposed photo of Eric Rassineux from Dubai police over photo of Barkan from New Zealand authorities. His facial features are identical

“We want clarity on this issue. We want the Canadian authorities to tell us exactly what the details are — the thing that is discomfiting is the lack of transparency on this,” he told Reuters. “The person informed me then that this information was not to be released in the media and was only for the police. Since then we have not heard any more information and I don’t understand the secrecy.”

Shortly thereafter, the Al Ittihad Arabic daily reported the suspect was one of the two people shown on the hotel’s surveillance cameras wearing tennis outfits and carrying rackets as they followed the Hamas leader to his room up the elevator in the Bustan Rotana Hotel.

Later that month in October that year Israeli TV reported that the Mossad agent under arrest in Canada was the assassin using the alias Eric Rassineux.

The Israeli Mossad agent Zev Barkin, who fled New Zealand for attempting to obtain a fraudulent passport and was then reported to be in Pyongyang when the mysterious explosion killed Syrian scientists attempting to return home with a cargo of sophisticated weaponry,  has since been identified as the man who used the alias Eric Rassineux to murder the Hamas leader in Dubai.

Message tweeted by Israeli embassy in London the day Israeli ambassador was summoned to explain why 6 U.K. citizens had their passports used in the Dubai assassination. Barkan was dressed in a sports outfit carrying a tennis racket during the mission

Message tweeted by Israeli embassy in London the day Israeli ambassador was summoned to explain why 6 U.K. citizens had their passports used in the Dubai assassination. Barkan was dressed in a sports outfit carrying a tennis racket during the mission

But Canada soon refuted the allegations they had anyone in custody related to the Dubai murder, calling the assertion “baseless.”

Lt.-Gen. Tamimut also told The Globe that one of the suspects had entered the UAE on a fake Canadian passport.

“We have nothing to say at this point,” said Sergeant Greg Cox, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“Tamimut said we gave this info to the Dubai police, and we didn’t,” Canadian embassy officials in Dubai told the Globe and Mail.

During the height of the dispute between Canada and Dubai in October, the UAE refused Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay’s airplane, which was returning from a visit to Afghanistan, permission to fly over Dubai airspace, forcing him to take a circuitous route over Europe.

Interpol mugshots of Mossad assassins in Dubai wanted for murder. Barkan is on the far left, third from top

Interpol mugshots of Mossad assassins in Dubai wanted for murder. Barkan is on the far left, third from top

ZEV, ZE’EV, LEV

“Former Israeli diplomat to New Zealand Zev William Barkan leads a life akin to that of novelist Frederick Forsyth’s Jackal, emerging from the shadows only to be named by authorities in connection with various crimes before again disappearing,” wrote New Zealand’s Fairfax Media in July 2011.

Zev Barkan was born Zev Bruckenstein in 1967 in Washington D.C, where his family owned a “doors and windows business” and his father was director of religious studies at a synagogue. He holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship after his family moved to Israel in the 1970’s.

Barkan entered New Zealand on a U.S. passport and had an American accent, according to New Zealand officials.

Other aliases he has used include Zev William Barkan, Ze’ev William Barkan, and Lev Bruckenstein. He told acquaintances in New Zealand that he was American and his name was Jay.

Dubai officials believe he was travelling on a fraudulent French passport using the name Eric Rassineux and Canadian officials were investigating him using the stolen passport of Canadian Kevin William Hunter.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that “The passports that Mossad agents tried to obtain illegally might have been reserved for an assassination operation in a third country, which would have caused irreparable damage to New Zealand.”€

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said “the New Zealand government views the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law. The Israeli agents attempted to demean the integrity of the New Zealand passport system and could have created considerable difficulties for New Zealanders presenting their passports overseas in future.”

She added: “The Israel government was asked for an explanation and an apology three months ago. Neither has been received.”€

When reporters for the New Zealand Herald tracked down Ze’ev Barkan’s family in October 2004, they were not well received. In the village of Shoham, 15 miles from Tel Aviv, Ze’ev Barkan wife, Irit, answered the reporter’s phone  call but claimed she did not know a Ze’ev.

His father, Yossef Barkan was more direct. “Stop calling here, you hear me. I’ve nothing to do with this business. Goodbye.”

See full story and related stories on North Korean-Syrian clandestine activities at NKNews.org

The Death of Credible Media in the Internet Age: Media More Dead Than Non Existent GF of Sports Celebrity

18 Jan

The Death of Credible Media in the Age of the Internet: Media Standards More Dead Than Non Existent Therefore Not Dead Girlfriend of Football Celebrity

 By Nate Thayer

For months, major news outlet once known for being credible, reliable sources of information with rigorous internal standards ensuring accuracy and quality control, from the New York Times to CBS to Sports Illustrated, have all highlighted repeatedly a riveting, wrenching story of a rising American football hero and his inspirational reaction to the tragic death from leukemia of his longtime girlfriend.

The only problem, it was revealed yesterday, it is all a breathtaking lie and hoax, with TV, print, radio and Web media stories reporting for months on someone who never existed and splashing headlines about events that never happened.

Although it’s still not clear who created the heroic-sports-star-and-his-tragically-dead-girlfriend hoax, it is exactly clear that the media repeated the fraud, victimizing news consumers, since last September without  engaging in even rudimentary inquiries challenging a narrative that, only a few years ago, would have waved so many red flags even Jimmy Olsen, Clark Kent’s hapless boy reporter in the Superman comic book series, would have been skeptical.

So a celebrity and sports star lied; no news there. That every major media outlet in the country fell for it, repeatedly and without exception, is a very big story, indeed.

Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s non-existent dead-from-leukemia girlfriend, whose tragic death he said inspired him to play harder and was the catalyst to his team winning the national college football championship, has some explaining to do.

But much more important than the fact the dead girlfriend of a celebrity sports star was never alive and, by extension, never his girlfriend,  was that virtually every respectable trustworthy media outlet in the U.S. wrote repeatedly creating this fictional, evolving narrative for months.

Now scores of reporters, major media outlets, the multi-billion dollar football industry and the universities who profit from them, are going through what would be comical acrobatics trying to point the finger somewhere-anywhere-as long as it away from themselves, if the wholesale indictment of what used to be a reputable free press was not so deeply exposed as the real hoax that in the age of internet news, and is such a sadly false presumption.

Another example of the effect of the absence of journalistic standards that happened at the same time as the non death of the non girlfriend of the sports celebrity almost caused world war three. Details on that story, which falls smack comfortably into the same roots and causes of this football sports embarrassment to journalism but actually was serious as cancer, are further below in this story.

Here is an interactive map that shows the impact last September of the power of the the new news media to throw the world into convulsions within moments:

<iframe width=”425″ height=”350″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ src=”https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=201645180959880549419.0004c9a894dfb66defab9&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=m&source=embed&z=3&output=embed”&gt;
View Muslim Protests by John Hudson in a larger map

manti_te_o__playing_through_tremendous_adversity__hd_-1

The universities say it was a hoax perpetrated against him. Football star Te’o say he is the victim. The reporters who trumpeted the story say they are the aggrieved ones, and the major news organizations who published this transparent fiction, which never would have made the news under pre-internet quality control systems, are all silent.

While the girlfriend was clearly a hoax in this convoluted story, the bigger hoax was perpetrated on the news consumer; another example in what is now routine shoddy reporting that passes as news. Not long ago, any half bright half trained idiot would have seen the inconsistencies, and, if they didn’t, there would have been editors employed to scrutinize the sausage making process that used to ensure such a ruse never saw the light of print.

Play reporter like you had a fake girlfriend die today

Play reporter like you had a fake girlfriend die today

As a journalist, I get lied to every day for a living. A good chunk of my life has been spent waiting in hotel lobbies for someone to come downstairs and lie to me; trekking through Godforsaken jungles or warzones to talk to people who lie to me; paying for someone’s bar bill so they can get drunk on my dime ir order to lie to me; or, increasingly and mind numbingly annoyingly true these days, being forced to talk to some overpaid nitwit with far too large of a hair care budget, usually with the title of spokesman or press officer, whose very existence and job description is that of a professional liar charged with preventing me access to the truth regardless of what the issue at hand is.

The uninterrupted theme here is people lie to journalists and it is the journalists job to disassemble these collection of various degrees and shades of dishonesty and create a credible version with a minimum threshold of veracity of whatever newsworthy event is at issue, so that issues worthy of common knowledge of the masses is available in its as accurate and unvarnished truth as can be presented.

Our job is to make sure those lies are sifted through, balanced between other lies, tweaked, massaged, challenged, rejected, exposed, and then all pieced together like some Satanic inspired Rubik’s Cube, to form something as close to being accurate and true as possible.

ny post twitter

Before the internet and the collapse of journalism as we knew it, there were internal standards and policies in place to ensure that process worked pretty well, if a news organization was committed to it. Those job positions, and the commitment to quality and accuracy of reporting they were responsible for, have virtually all been eliminated from every major news organization in the free world. Those not in the free world very job is to lie to us. That is why there is the North Korean state media and no one else allowed there to operate, as one example.

When journalism consists of believing and repeating people’s statements and contentions of versions of events without a strict internal process of fact checking, verification, qualification, confirmation, balanced opposing views and an inviolable internal system of rigid structures of quality control, it ceases to be a credible profession.

It becomes a hobby, political platform, bully pulpit, or venue to deceive or manipulate public opinion driven by an agenda different from providing quality accurate information in the form of news for consumption for the common good.

The dirty little secret is there is today, essentially, no such thing as journalism as we have known it, having been stealthily transformed by the unstoppable tsunami of the new digital information age and, left in the equally as profoundly positive as utterly negative of its equally as constructive as destructive path, the dead carcass of what was once quality, reliable journalism.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Quality journalism as an institution is officially dead.

But unfortunately there is no one now employed in a position to report this fact.

It was killed by the rise of the internet, and no one has come up with a viable business model to create what will its inevitable rebirth, because a reliable, trustworthy, honest, quality free press is a vital institution to free societies and free people. And it will rise again.

But the ugly truth is, today, don’t believe anything you read. Anywhere.

And the sad fact, and dirty little secret, is that applies to virtually every former bastion of the credible free press and such heralded names as the AP, Reuters, AFP, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, anything that Rupert Murdoch owns, the BBC, and so on and so forth and etc etc.

AP report saying "Jewish Money" financed anti Islam Film

AP report saying “Jewish Money” financed anti Islam Film

The quality of journalism has been mortally wounded by layoffs of tens of thousands of professionals in the last five years. Experienced reporters and editors have been thrown out of newsrooms across the world. Foreign budgets, stringer budgets, editor positions, and those responsible for ensuring accuracy and quality control have been summarily eliminated.  Seasoned journalists and editors, whose job it was to act as gatekeepers to sound journalistic standards and ethics, were deemed expendable by the executives who only care about the bottom line.

Remember, quality journalism, by definition, has to be independent from governments and their restrictions and money. There can never be any government imposed restrictions on an unfettered free press to publish whatever garbage or heroic truth, regardless of how important or offensive, full stop.

This means it is a private enterprise run by businessmen whose objective is to make a profit. The honest truth is these media owners don’t care whether they are selling toothpaste or the unfettered truth of news of issues vital to the common good of free societies. If they can’t make a profit doing so, they will stop making that product.

And by and large, in the business of producing and selling quality news, they have.
The fictional story of the pathetic football celebrity presented as fact and truth is the result of all of the thousands of budget cuts that have eviscerated quality news reporting since the dawn of the internet.

This kind of sloppy reporting is not an anomaly; it is the new journalism and will only increase in the years to come. The consequences of that are bad for societies of course, and is increasingly viewed as it well should be, as bad for the news media industry.

Credibility used to be the backbone of the free press, which is, by its very nature, a for profit business. Now credibility is an expendable luxury, and thousands of laid off journalists remain unemployed, under threat of being so or have transitioned into other careers.

Here are some of the stories facts:  Te’o first said he met this woman on the Stanford University Campus. Now he says it was a pure online only relationship. The photo Te’o used was stolen from a real girl’s FaceBook account. Te’o’s family stated several times they met the girlfriend in person in Hawaii. Te’o now says he never met her in person during what he has long publicly claimed was a three year relationship and he was in love with her, during which time she was in a car accident, but he never went to see her; She was diagnosed with leukemia, but he never went to see her; and she died, but h e never went to see her.

No one checked to see there was no record of an obituary, no one contacted her family of which they would have found didn’t exist, there was no public death notice, no records of her alleged graduation from Stanford University, and no one could produce a photograph of her because there are not pictures of people who, well, aren’t.

“In retrospect, you can see where some of those things weren’t adding up to make sense,” said the ESPN reporter who covered this story prominently for months. “It’s easy to say now, but at the time it never enters your mind that somebody was involved in that kind of hoax. We wanted to believe it so much.”

MTeo_5 Manti Te'o 22 Nov The best reporter ever @JustineBWard lol happy thanksgiving Justine! pic.twitter.com/oidWJeOb

MTeo_5 Manti Te’o 22 Nov The best reporter ever @JustineBWard lol happy thanksgiving Justine! pic.twitter.com/oidWJeOb

In October, Te’o told ESPN that Kekua was “the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met,” He added to the ESPN report that “Faith is believing in something that you most likely can’t see, but you believe to be true. You feel in your heart, and in your soul, that it’s true, but you still take that leap.”

The Associated Press reported on Sept. 22, 2012 that Kekua’s funeral was held in “Carson City, Calif.,” a city that does not exist, probably meaning Carson, California, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, Te’o skipped the funeral, saying Kekua insisted he not miss a scheduled football game.

In December, CBS news reported Te’o suffering “unimaginable anguish” from the deaths of his grandmother and nonexistent girlfriend. CBS refused to comment saying only “Like many other news outlets, we are now aware of the circumstances.”

Sports Illustrated wrote how Te’o would speak on the phone with Kekua as she lay dying in her hospital bed, perk up at the sound of his voice, but didn’t bother to inquire what hospital that was. The magazine even wrote that Te’o would fall asleep on the phone and wake up in the morning with Kekua still on the line.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated Oct. 1 issue, above the headline, “The Full Manti” in a story describing him as a devout Mormon who led his Catholic university, Notre Dame, to football victory after suffering personal tragedies of as Sports Illustrated wrote, the death of his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, within six hours of each other in September,

22 years old Lennay Kekua was seriously injured in a car accident only to then be diagnosed with leukemia, wrote Sports Illustrated Pete Thamel, who said the football players comforting phone calls to her hospital room were crucial. “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,” Thamel wrote.

Te’o appeared on ESPN’s and spoke of the letters Kekua had written him while dying and how he would send letters to parents of sick children imparting his comforting tale of personal grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote the couple met when she was a Stanford student and he a Notre Dame football star, after a football game at Stanford.

Notre Dame University released a statement yesterday, January 16, that their football coaches were informed by Te’o on Dec. 26 that he was duped had been the victim of his nonexistent girlfriend who “apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia,” adding “the proper authorities” are investigating a “very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.”.

The Sports Illustrated writer, Pete Thamel tweeted yesterday: “The big question here is whether Te’o was involved or not. Notre Dame is staking a loud claim that he got duped and had no involvement.”

No, Mr. reporter Thamel, the big question is why you wrote this ridiculous, easily verifiable fiction and published it without employing the rudimentary journalism 101 fact checking processes and duped your readers into believing the story to be true.

Even today, after all this was revealed, the football star is digging himself even deeper. “This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” he said. “We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”

Indeed. But so what? Another very young celebrity on the verge of making millions does something really really stupid. But it is the reaction of the media and so called reputable institutions that are unacceptable and of far more disturbing consequence.

In the age of the internet, the truth is that the system of internal structures that assured basic credibility of news stories in reputable media outlets have been discarded under the pressure of competing for being first in the new era of instant news.

There use to be a reason why one read and gave credence to a story written by the Associated Press and was skeptical when it was published in the London Daily Mail. Now, the unpleasant truth is the rush to be first means there is a precious little sunlight to differentiate the two.

The absurd and even more sad story about the troubled football star and the rightfully embarrassed so called reporters that pass for what is now still called journalism could be a source of amusement if it didn’t represent the norm of media standards on stories of far more consequence to a peaceful world and the institutions that are vital to democracy and civil society.

On Sept. 11, 2012 a crude, 14-minute trailer of a hateful anti Muslim movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” was the most volatile internet event in 2012, sparking violent riots that left hundreds dead and spread like wildfire, engulfing two dozen countries after being broadcast in Egypt, culminating in the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, where four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed. The uproar over the video sparked furious protests from Somalia to Egypt to Sudan to Tunisia to Libya to Bangladesh to Indonesia to Pakistan.

behead

Dead American Ambassador to Libya

Dead American Ambassador to Libya

egypt riots google_chrome067 largeMUSLIM PROTESTS riot like an egyptian

There was a rush to find out who was behind the clearly intentionally incendiary movie, and the first to break the news was the Associated Press, which dominated headlines as the top world story as the entire middle east threatened to be engulfed in violence.

The Associated Press, the world’s biggest news organization first broke the story which defined the narrative of who was behind the obviously intentionally incendiary movie, naming him as Sam Bacile, an “Israeli-American real-estate developer” adding “Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on September 12: “The movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” was directed and produced by an Israeli-American real-estate developer who characterized it as a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam. It has been promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans previously sparked deadly riots around the world. … [The] film [is] about the Prophet Muhammad, portions of which in recent days have been circulating on the Internet. Contravening the Islamic prohibition of portraying the prophet, clips from the film show him not only as flesh and blood—but as a homosexual son of undetermined patrimony, who rises to advocate child slavery and extramarital sex, for himself, in the name of religion.”

Both the AP and the Wall Street Journal reported interviewing a Bacile, who claimed to be a California real estate developer who raised $5 million from Jewish donors to make his anti-Islam film. According to the Wall Street Journal “Mr. Bacile said he raised $5 million from about 100 Jewish donors, whom he declined to identify.”  The AP reported on September 12, as riots and attacks spread throughout the middle east and beyond, and before the murders of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others were confirmed, that “An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding Tuesday after his movie attacking Islam’s prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, where one American was killed. Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.”

The AP story dominated the world headlines on a story that had now caused violence in dozens of countries. It continued “Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world. “Islam is a cancer, period,” he said repeatedly, his solemn voice thickly accented.”

As it turned out, within days it was shown that Bacile didn’t exist, the film makers were not Jewish, and there was no Israeli money involved. The real man was Egyptian with American citizenship and a Coptic Christian, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who lived outside Los Angeles. The AP said the cell phone number it called for a telephone interview with Bacile in their original story matched Nakoula’s address.

By that time violent attacks had spread to dozens more countries, hundreds of thousands were prepared to murder millions of others, all based on misinformation and the absence to access to credible and accurate news.

So, instead of focusing on the prurient entertainment and shadenfreude of watching an inconsequential man with sporting talent implode in front of us, perhaps it might be useful to ponder the same causes that allowed that to occur could spark world war three. Then maybe we might make it a matter of national priority, on par with landing a man on the moon, to recreate a credible institution of a viable profitable business model for a free press, which is vital to a healthy and peaceful free society.

Oops. That Hits a Bit Close to Home: Second Thoughts on North Korean Propaganda

26 Nov

Oops. That Hits a Bit Close to Home: Second Thoughts on North Korean Propaganda

By Nate Thayer

I had my finger on the enter button to post a snarky comment about recent satellite photos from Google Earth which revealed a message of praise, each letter measuring 49 feet wide and 65 feet high, carved into the side of a North Korean mountain reading “Long Live General Kim Jong Un, the Shining Sun!”

Earlier this year, after Kim Jong Il’s death, the slogan “Peerless Patriot General Kim Jong Il” was revealed as carved into Mount Sokda, in South Pyonggan province, North Korea.

I felt quite comfortable in expressing my outrage at another oversized example of absurd state sponsored political propaganda, once again taken to precise levels of perfection by the boneheads in charge in Pyongyang.

120 meter inscription carved into North Korean mountain praising Kim Jong Il

According to the Daily NK, a media outlet run by North Korean defectors, these chopping up of the earth for political propaganda “got worse after Kim Il Sung’s death, when Kim Jong Il ordered the authorities to carve phrases into various scenic locations because ‘We need to convey to our descendants how great a person we had as Suryeong [our leaders]” by “carving inane things in them like ‘The Nation’s Celebrated Mountain. Kim Jong Il.’

Four Important Dead White Guys in the U.S. Carved in Mountain

Then I paused, as  vague recollections of similar propaganda monuments flashed a red warning sign, and, very shortly, my riotous indignation was rapidly deflated as I took a bit of a look into the larger issue of governments carving monuments of political adulation into mountainsides.

There is the matter of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Mount Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) carved into the side of the mountain in a memorial covering  1,278 acres.

In addition to the ostentatious oversized propaganda icon, it is controversial because the United States stole the land from the Native American Lakota tribe in a war and then granted the land  back to the Lakota in 1968 in perpetuity. And then swiped it back.

A Sioux Indian in front of gargantuan carvings on the side of mountain swiped back from his people after being seized in war in order to build propaganda icon

Then it seems to get even worse.

The sculptor of Mount Rushmore was one Gutzon Borglum, who, it turns out, was an active member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Then it gets worse and plain weird.

The largest carved propaganda monument on earth is in fact a bas relief sculpture, the Confederate Memorial Carving on Stone Mountain, Georgia, which memorializes  the side that lost the American civil war fought to end slavery. The KKK activist, Gutzon Borglum, was first commissioned to do this carving,  abandoning it in 1923 to begin Mount Rushmore.

The World’s Biggest propaganda Monument carved into a mountain–in the U.S. by Ku Klux Klan sculpture in Georgia, U.S. commemorating the leaders of the war defending slavery

This monument depicts three Confederate leaders of the U.S. Civil War measuring about  3 acres–the size of three football fields. The carving measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain, the deepest point at Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet deep into the mountain’s surface. The carving is 400 feet (120 meters) above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet (58 meters), and is recessed 42 feet (13 meters) into the mountain.

The Ku Klux Klan connection seems to be a dominant thread in outsized U.S. propaganda monuments craved out of stone.

Wide View of Stone Mountain Georgia Propaganda Monument

Then it gets even wackier.

A few years ago, In recent years, stone samples from Stone Mountain were sent to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation for use in the monument under construction in Washington, D.C.  in King’s honor, but they lost out in the bidding to a superior supplier. From China.

Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington is remembered for his reference to “let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!”

The MLK Memorial on the National Mall, next to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, was completed exactly one year ago, the fall of 2011, after a 27-year wait,

Martin Luther King Propaganda Monument which rejected Ku Klux Klan stone in favor of Chinese stone and design by Mao trained propagandist

And it was designed by a Chinese artist, carved by Chinese workers, and is made from imported Chinese granite, which was reconstructed by Chinese workers on the National Mall.

The Economist noted that the memorial caused a political hullabaloo at the time: “Why not an American artist, critics ask? With American rock? And why use white granite, some have noted, to portray a black man?”

The nationally syndicated African American Washington Post columnist, Clarence Page, answered the question, because “white rock shows up better than black rock at night. Chinese white granite is harder than the domestic variety, so it will last longer. The artist best prepared to work the hard Chinese rock is, not surprisingly, Chinese” although he hastened to add the memorial’s Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin, is “better known for his mammoth tributes to Chairman Mao” and his rendition of Martin Luther King is “a bit too much of a worker’s-paradise seriousness for my taste.”

Former Mao propagandist Chinese sculptor hired by U.S. to build Martin Luther King monument in Washington

Poet Maya Angelou complained the inscription on the memorial, a quote from King, makes him “look like an arrogant twit.”

The Economist went on to posit that “Mr. Lei is not hired to offer his interpretation of a subject…On the contrary, he is hired not to interpret, to apply the same psychologically dead and mendaciously indifferent treatment to all his subjects. Mr. Lei is a political bullshit artist, and it shows. That Chinese white granite is especially durable is a stupid reason to get stuck with this kind of soulless stone agitprop.”

So, to sum it up, a north east Asian propaganda artist trained by Chairman Mao was the choice of Washington to build a propaganda monument to a political activist who was assassinated for protesting the government policies memorialized by the slave owning former head of states whose heads were carved in a mountain in  the American west by a Ku Klux Klan inspired artist who abandoned his commission to carve what is now the biggest propaganda monument on earth to the leaders of those who went to war to preserve slavery, which is in MLK’s home state of Georgia.

“If you don’t like the people represented in the carving, there’s got to be some poetic justice to projecting the American flag on their mugs and playing patriotic music to a crowd of people of all races. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate “F U” to confederate leaders?”–an online commentator on the debate on the Stone Mountain monument

So let’s return briefly to North Korea.

A few weeks after the MLK monument was unveiled in Washington, North Korea pulls the sheets off its latest propaganda effort, a 120 meter inscription carved on Mount Sokda for Kim Jong-Il. The inscription read: “Peerless Patriot General Kim Jong-Il. February 16, Juche 101 (2012)” Kim’s name is 10 meters high, 5.5 meters wide and 1.4 meters deep, according to official Korean Central News Agency. “Officials and working people in South Pyongan province chose the rock that is easily visible, reflecting the ardent desire of the people around the country to exalt his immortal revolutionary feats forever,” it added.

And then back to the United States.

Newest propaganda monument to the black mayor of Stone Mountain Georgia

In 1995, Tyrone Brooks, a black resident of Stone Mountain, Georgia, was told by his grandmother that black people had been lynched and thrown from the mountaintop. “I did not grow up with a good feeling about Stone Mountain,” Brooks told the Los Angeles Times:”I still don’t have a good feeling about it.”

When the 1996 Olympics were held in nearby Atlanta, there was a laser show nightly from May through Labor Day featuring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson, and the Confederate flag and accompanied by Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Dixie.”

In 1997, Stone Mountain was a majority black city and elected a black mayo, Chuck Burris.

The 20th-century Ku Klux Klan was born here in 1915, and, until his death in 1993, the town was home to James R. Venable, the hate-spewing imperial wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Now Burris lives in the same house where Mr. Venable, himself the mayor in the 1940’s, lived for most of his life.

“Tell me,” said Chuck E. Burris, the then Mayor-elect, ”that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. There’s a new Klan in Stone Mountain, only it’s spelled with a C: c-l-a-n, citizens living as neighbors. And I guess I’m the black dragon.”

The first Black mayor of Stone Mountain Georgia”“Tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. There’s a new Klan in Stone Mountain, only it’s spelled with a C: c-l-a-n, citizens living as neighbors. And I guess I’m the black dragon.”

So the question seems to be should anyone really try and mess with the ridiculous edifices erected by the ego’s of politicians in history. It seems more fun to just enjoy them and make fun of them and then laugh at them.

Or we could try option number two.

On March 1, 2001, the then in power Taliban of destroyed two giant Buddha statues in a particularly barbaric act of cultural destruction in which they took cannons and shelled the 1,800 year-old statues carved into a mountainside in Afghanistan on the Silk Road. They claimed that they were false idols contrary to their Islamic beliefs.

The two Buddhist statues in Afghanistan before they were blown up by the Taliban in March 2001

The two massive Bamiyan Buddha’s were 50 meters (165 feet) and 34.5 meters (114 feet) tall and were built around the second century. Koichiro Matsuura, chief of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization convened an emergency meeting of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to try to stop the destruction. ”They are destroying statues that the entire world considers to be masterpieces,” Matsuura said at the time.

Taliban strategy to oppose propaganda art. 2001 state organized destruction of largest Buddhist mountain carvings on earth (Reuters Photo)

Even Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf couldn’t change their minds, and wrote Taliban head Mullah Omar a four-page letter urging him not to blow up the statues, secretly hand-delivered to Omar by Pakistani Internal Security Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, but the letter had no effect, according to my former Far Eastern Review colleague Ahmed Rashid in his bestselling book on the country.

“The destruction work is not as easy as people would think. You can’t knock down the statues by dynamite or shelling as both of them have been carved into the cliff. They are firmly attached to the mountain,” a Taliban spokesman lamented at the time.

Osama bin Laden’s influence over the Taliban at the time apparently played a role in the decision to try to erase history. Bin Laden is said to have campaigned vigorously for the destruction of the statues, which further isolated both Bin Laden and the Taliban. That strategy towards state sanctioned art didn’t end well for either of them.

By 2006, both Omar and bin Laden were holed up probably regretting their political positions on art.

The new Afghan government began re-construction of the statues, and a $1.3 million UNESCO-funded project began collecting by hand the shards of clay and plaster.

Plus, the new Afghan government  gave the green light to Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata’s $64 million sound-and-laser show to begin in 2009 to project Buddha images powered by hundreds of windmills that would also supply electricity to surrounding residents.

And then a few months ago, calls to destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids Began as prominent Muslim clerics called for their demolition, as Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi’I put it, those “symbols of paganism.”

Egypt’s Muslim Salafi party has a plan to cover them with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids.”

My advice would be to do a bit of internet research before casting stones that might break ones own windows.

 

U.S. Embassy Bhenghazi Attacked by Mob, Set on Fire–in 1967

17 Nov

Recalling the Attack on the U.S. Compound in Benghazi – from June 1967

While researching an entirely unrelated story, I came across this remarkably familiar account of a mob attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi–in 1967.  Here, John Kormann, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer describes his experience as officer-in-charge at Embassy Benghazi, when it was attacked and burned in June 1967 from archives of the Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the independent non profit Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) which has some 1,700 oral histories of U.S. diplomats accessible on its website. From Kormann’s account: “Convinced by propaganda broadcasts that U.S. Navy planes were attacking Cairo, Libyan mobs, spurred on by 2000 Egyptian workers in Benghazi, attacked the Embassy. A detachment of soldiers provided by the Libyan Government to protect us was overwhelmed. The embassy file room was full of highly classified material, which we desperately tried to burn.The mob finally battered its way in. They pushed themselves in through broken windows and came at us cut and bleeding. We were well armed, but I gave orders that there be no shooting, so we met them with axe handles and rifle butts.”

Thermite Grenades used to destroy classified documents while Benghazi, Libya U.S. embassy under attack by mob in 1967

“Dropping tear gas grenades, we fought our way up the stairs and locked ourselves in the second floor communications vault. There were 10 of us in the vault, including two women. The mobs set fire to the building. The heat, smoke and tear gas were intense. We came out of the vault several times during the day to use fire extinguishers to control blazes and spray down walls. Our own destruction of files using Thermite sent up huge clouds of black smoke from the center of the building, probably adding to the impression that those of us inside were dying.”

Benghazi, Libya 1967

“With no power, we managed to send sporadic messages throughout the day using an emergency generator. Efforts by British troops to come to our aid were called off several times. A British armored car was destroyed by the mob in the vicinity of the Embassy by pouring gasoline down the hatch and setting it afire with an officer and four soldiers inside. The British Embassy and British Council offices had been attacked and set afire, as were the USIS [U.S. Information Service] center and my former residence. At one point the mob used a ladder to drop from an adjoining building on to our roof, catching us trying to burn files there. After a struggle they drove us back into the Embassy. They cut the ropes on the tall roof flag pole, leaving the flag itself hanging down the front of the building. An Army captain who was with us requested permission to go up on the roof and raise the flag. I dismissed his request, saying it would be counterproductive. Later when things looked very bleak and our spirits were waning, he came to me again. I said, “Go ahead, raise the flag!” He did so with considerable daring, the mob going crazy below and the rocks flying. The reaction among my people was profound. I could see it in their eyes, as they worked on with grim determination under those conditions to burn files and render cryptographic equipment inoperable.”  The full account is below and on this link:

http://adst.org/2012/11/recalling-the-attack-on-embassy-benghazi-from-june-1967/

Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History

Recalling the Attack on the U.S. Compound in Benghazi – from June 1967

The circumstances seem all too familiar — political turmoil leads to angry mobs storming the U.S. compound in Benghazi.  Except this incident took place in June 1967. John Kormann fought in World War II as a paratrooper and went behind enemy lines to apprehend Nazi war criminals and uncover a mass grave.  As an Army Counter Intelligence Corps field office commander in Berlin from 1945 to 47, he helped search for Martin Bormann.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1950 and describes his experience as officer-in-charge at Embassy Benghazi, when it was attacked and burned in June 1967.  He is also author of his memoirs, Echoes of a Distant Clarion. You can read his entire oral history here.

“The mob battered its way in”

The most harrowing experience of my Foreign Service career occurred in Benghazi at the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Convinced by propaganda broadcasts that U.S. Navy planes were attacking Cairo, Libyan mobs, spurred on by 2000 Egyptian workers building a pan- Arab Olympic stadium in Benghazi, attacked the Embassy. The streets were being repaired and there were piles of rocks everywhere, which the mob put to use. A detachment of soldiers provided by the Libyan Government to protect us was overwhelmed. The embassy file room was full of highly classified material, which we desperately tried to burn. The embassy had been a former bank building, with a heavy safe-type front door and barred windows. The mob finally battered its way in. They pushed themselves in through broken windows and came at us cut and bleeding.

Benghazi embassy 2012

We were well armed, but I gave orders that there be no shooting, so we met them with axe handles and rifle butts. Dropping tear gas grenades, we fought our way up the stairs and locked ourselves in the second floor communications vault. We were able to continue burning files in 50-gallon drums on an inner courtyard balcony using Thermite grenades. There were 10 of us in the vault, including two women. The mobs set fire to the building. The heat, smoke and tear gas were intense, which while terrible for us, blessedly forced the mob from the building. We only had five gas masks for 10 people and shared them while we worked. We came out of the vault several times during the day to use fire extinguishers to control blazes and spray down walls.

Our own destruction of files using Thermite sent up huge clouds of black smoke from the center of the building, probably adding to the impression that those of us inside were dying. With no power, we managed to send sporadic messages throughout the day using an emergency generator. Efforts by British troops to come to our aid were called off several times. A British armored car was destroyed by the mob in the vicinity of the Embassy by pouring gasoline down the hatch and setting it afire with an officer and four soldiers inside. The British Embassy and British Council offices had been attacked and set afire, as were the USIS [U.S. Information Service] center and my former residence.

Benghazi 2012

I might mention something here because many people asked me about it afterward. At one point the mob used a ladder to drop from an adjoining building on to our roof, catching us trying to burn files there. After a struggle they drove us back into the Embassy. They cut the ropes on the tall roof flag pole, leaving the flag itself hanging down the front of the building. An Army MAAG [Military Assistance Advisory Group] captain who was with us requested permission to go up on the roof and raise the flag. I dismissed his request, saying it would be counterproductive. Later when things looked very bleak and our spirits were waning, he came to me again in front of the others. I told him I would think about it. I had been a combat paratrooper in WW II and had seen what defiance and a bit of bravura could do for soldiers under mortal stress.

U.S Flag flies over U.S. Embassy Benghazi 2012

Afterward I said, “Go ahead, raise the flag!” He did so with considerable daring, the mob going crazy below and the rocks flying. The reaction among my people was profound. I could see it in their eyes, as they worked on with grim determination under those conditions to burn files and render cryptographic equipment inoperable.

“Thugs and Killers Don’t Represent Benghazi or Islam”

The British Come to the Rescue

When late in the day (remember the attack began in the morning), we received word that a British rescue attempt had again been postponed for fear that lives might be lost, I took a photograph of President and Mrs. Johnson off the wall, broke it out of the frame and wrote a message on the back to the President saying something to the effect that we have tried our best to do our duty. Everyone signed it. When an inspector subsequently asked me about that, I could tell him that people will respond to the call of duty given the chance.

We sent our last message at about 6:00 p.m. I learned later from a friend who was in the Operations Center in Washington that it came in garbled, leading to the impression that we were burning alive. At that Secretary Rusk called the British Foreign Secretary with a further plea to get us out. At 8:00 p.m. a British armored column arrived and took us by truck to D’Aosta Barracks, their base on the outskirts of town. Libya had been a British protectorate after WW II and they still maintained a small military contingent outside of Benghazi under an agreement with King Idriss. The British were magnificent, rescuing us and then helping us bring hundreds of Americans to their camp, where they fed us and gave us shelter.

The night of our escape from the vault, I asked for a volunteer to go with me into the center of Benghazi at 2:00 a.m. to bring out Americans most in danger. The city was in flames, Jewish and foreign shops and properties having been set to the torch. Driving through the city, we were repeatedly stopped by roadblocks manned by nervous, trigger-happy Libyan soldiers. The streets were full of debris.

I remember pulling up to an apartment house lit only by fires from nearby burning shops. Going up the darkened stairs, knocking on doors, I asked for an American family. On the fourth floor, I heard a small voice say, “Who’s there?” In English, I answered, “It’s the American Consul.” An American woman cautiously opened the door. She must have known me, because she called me by name and said, “We knew you’d come, we are all packed.” What a wonderful tribute, I thought, to our Foreign Service. During that night and the next day we brought out other Americans under very trying circumstances.

We had problems in evacuating Americans from Benghazi. Arrangements were made for U.S. Air Force planes to pick up about 250 of them at the airport. At the last moment I received word that Russian-built Algerian troop transports with paratroopers and Egyptian MiG fighters had landed at the airport. I didn’t want our planes shot at. I didn’t want a serious incident. Calling Tripoli, I talked with Ambassador Newsom. After listening to me, he said, “Well, John, you’re the man on the spot. This is your decision to make.” I made the decision to bring the planes in all right, but I must say really I wished that I hadn’t had to, for I was truly worried. My wife and children were going to be aboard those planes, as well as a lot of other Americans, who could pay with their lives should my decision be a bad one.

Ambassador Stevens dragged from U.S. embassy Benghazi 2012

The British provided trucks and a bus for the evacuees. They were taken on to the airport through an opening away from the terminal and driven right past the parked MiGs and Algerian transports. With the connivance of an English civilian air controller in the tower, contact was made with the incoming Air Force planes using a British Army field radio. They were instructed to land on the grass along the fence at the most distant part of the field away from the terminal. Three planes, two C-130′s and a C-124, came in and made a fast turnaround. They were loaded and back in the air in minutes. The operation was carried out with such speed and audacity that there was no reaction from anyone until much later. All of us will be forever grateful to Colonel Alistair Martin and his British troops for their role in all of these actions; without them none of that would have been possible.

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Washington tells bar owner to rename cocktail or face justice

13 Sep

Washington demands local bar owner rename cocktail or he will face justice while religious violence provocateurs remain free to spark World War Three

Addendum update to this story: The plot thickens. It now appears the infamous “Jewish Israeli-American California real estate developer” who produced the movie that sparked this week’s mid east riots, does not exist and is a creation of an Egyptian-American Christian Coptic resident of California, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who is a convicted fraudster. The other Egyptian-American Coptic, Morris Sadek and the loopy Florida Quoran burning pastor, Terry Jones, were sucked into a trifecta of hate fueled religious intolerance in a perfect storm resulting from their own anti-Muslim zealotry. At the end of this story is the full text of an excellent and well worth the read very long AP story.

By Nate Thayer

Why is it a Washington D.C. bar owner can be dragged into court for violating the city’s Human Rights Act by serving a booze concoction with an off color name, but religious zealots are protected by law when to make incendiary movies and burn religious texts for the purposed of sparking World War Three?

The Washington Post reported today that Tony Tomelden, owner of the “Pug” bar in D.C. named a fruity vodka concoction the “Marion Barry’s Dirty Asian Summer Punch.” which he calls “The Ward 8 Special,” in a sarcastic tribute to the D.C. councilman and former four term Mayor.

The “Marion Berry’s Dirty Asian Summer Punch” is no longer available at the Pug.

Barry was captured on camera making racist remarks earlier this year criticizing Asian shop owners and Filipino nurses.

Drawn on the bar’s chalkboard is a caricature of a bald, slanted eyed, buck toothed Asian under which is written “No tickee, no punchee.”

The bar owner, whose father was half Filipino, received a legal demand from the city ordering him to stop selling the drink and summoned him to a hearing. Failure to comply can be a $10,000 a day fine. “I put it up there for a reason,” Tomelden said. “Barry gets away with this stuff continuously.”

The ‘Pug” bar owner Tony Tomelden

Former four-term mayor Barry, in remarks caught by local TV cameras after being reelected to the city council, said “We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops. They ought to go. I’ll just say that right now, you know. A number of these restaurants serve high-caloric food, bad food, et cetera, but the more important thing, they don’t participate in the community,” Barry said.

Barry said he singled out Asians in his remarks“because that’s reality. Who owns these little restaurants? Who owns them? You know, Asians. . . . 90 percent of all the small restaurants in Ward 8, at least.”

Tomelden was given 72 hours to remove the “Dirty Asian Summer Punch” sign, or face a “formal charge” by the Commission on Human Rights which can result in fines of up to $10,000 for a first-time offender.

The Washington city Human Rights Act of 1977 bars discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion and various other categories, and says “To print, circulate, post, or mail, or otherwise cause, directly or indirectly, to be published a statement, advertisement, or sign which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation will be unlawfully refused, withheld from or denied an individual; or that an individual’s patronage of, or presence at, a place of public accommodation is objectionable, speech concerns, but it is our unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable.”

D. C. Office of Human Rights official Jennifer Stoff told the Washington Post it “was the Office’s judgment that the sign at The Pug was not in keeping the intent of the Human Rights Act. We acknowledge any 1st amendment or political job to enforce the DC Human Rights Act.”

The bar owner was quoted as saying “Look, I’m a fucking bartender, not a constitutional scholar. It’s clearly frustrating, and it is what it is.”

His bar also hangs a vintage sign reading “Irish Need Not Apply.”

“I wonder if they are going to make the Irish bars take down the leprechauns,” he said.

Meanwhile, those who crafted a protracted intentional campaign to incite global religious violence remain legally protected to continue to do so after their efforts proved successful.

Morris Sadek’s Facebook page which he took down early Thursday afternoon after sparking middle east riots

On July 2, a video of “The Real Life of Muhammad” or “Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded to the You Tube account of Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American California real-estate developer who has called Islam “a cancer,”

But it failed to attract attention until another clip of the video — this time dubbed in Arabic was uploaded on September 4.

Days later, an Egyptian-American Christian Copt, Morris Sadek, who is an ally of Florida pastor Terry Jones, both of whom are known for incendiary taunts against Muslims, publicized the YouTube trailer in an Arabic-language blog post and in an e-mail newsletter in English.


Morris Sadek with ACT! For America president Brigitte Gabriel at a 2010 event.

Sadek, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian living in metropolitan Washington, is apparently the catalyst behind whipping up the violence.

A portrait of the man has emerged of an anti-Muslim activist who hates Obama, and is a fan of  the U.S. republican party, according to his own biographical details widely available. Sadek took down his Facebook account at 1 pm on Thursday, but the organization “Right Wing Watch” was able to retrieve it.

It says he is a supporter of ACT! for America, which believes that Obama is a  supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and he lists membership in an array of frindge hate groups including such names as Islam is of the Devil, Warriors of Christ, and OBAMA IS THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER!

In addition, he has registered himself as a fan of the Republican Party, George Bush, Allen West for president, and other anti-Islamic, conservative, or Republican institutions and leaders.

In an odd irony, he labeled himself a fan of the American embassy in Cairo, overrun by the riots he incited.

Sadek was publicizing a Jones effort to draw attention to the film. Jones is widely reviled, renowned for a campaign threatening to burn the Koran at his church that resulted in widespread riots that left scores dead in injured in 2011.

Morris Sadek blog post publicizing the Arabic version of the anti Muslim film this week features a photograph of him and Florida pastor Terry Jones at an anti-Islamic protest outside the White House in June.

  Egyptian Coptic Morris Sadek and Florida Pastor Terry Jones

Egyptian Coptic Morris Sadek and Florida Pastor Terry Jones at a anti Islamic demonstration at the White House In June

The same day as Salek’s Arabic blog post, Egyptian TV channel Al-Nas broadcast a clip from the You Tube account of the film’s producer, the Israeli-American California resident Sam Bacile.

The Egyptian TV shows host Sheikh Khaled Abdalla, is described as “part of a school of particularly shrill religious demagogues who turn every possible event into an attack on Islam” that regularly attacks the Egyptian Coptic Christian community.

Soon after the television airing, riots began in Cairo, spreading to Libya where the U.S. ambassador was killed in mob violence.

Egyptians burn US flag rioting over bad, obscure anti-Muslim hate movie

How did the U.S. first respond to the violence before it escalated to the storming and burning of the embassy in Benghazi?

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”

Or,in other words, in comparison to the crackdown on the D.C. Pub owner, with considerably more sympathy for intolerance.

Later, on Twitter, the embassy condemned both the provocative film and the attack on the compound.

Salek was the source of reports in the Egyptian media that some Coptic Christians  in Washington had produced a film denigrating the Muslim prophet, which sparked protesters to storm the walls of the US Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday and tear down the American flag.

Florida pastor Terry Jones whose PR stunts have resulted in scores dead in resulting violence

Pastor Jones responded to the violence by denouncing the Cairo embassy attack and announcing he planned to screen the film on Tuesday night at his church, adding it “reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad.”

The Cairo and Libyan attacks took place on the 11th anniversary of the bombing of the twin towers in New York, and the demonstrators chanted pro-Al Qaeda slogans such as “we are all Osama!”,  ripped an American flag apart and raised a black jihadist flag saying “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” Photographs show the name Osama bin Laden scrawled on a sign outside the embassy.

While “Marion Berry’s Dirty Asian Summer Punch” is no longer available at the Pug under threat of harsh punishment, a B-grade movie produced to spark world war three is available globally in one mouse click of the computer, and those whose intent was to incite murder succeeded remain legally protected to continue to do after their success which left an American Ambassador dead.

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Addendum update to the above story: The plot thickens. It now appears the infamous “Jewish Israeli-American California real estate developer” who produced the movie that sparked the mid east riots, does not exist and is a creation of an Egyptian-American Christian Coptic who lives in California and is a convicted fraudster, named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.. The other Egyptian-American Coptic, Morris Sadek and the loopy Florida Quoran burning pastor, Terry Jones, were sucked into a trifecta of hate fueled religious intolerance in a perfect storm resulting from their own anti-Muslim zealotry. Here is the excellent and worth the very long AP story:

The search for those behind the provocative, anti-Muslim film implicated in violent protests in Egypt and Libya led Wednesday to a California Coptic Christian convicted of financial crimes who acknowledged his role in managing and providing logistics for the production.Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview outside Los Angeles that he was manager for the company that produced “Innocence of Muslims,” which mocked Muslims and the prophet Muhammad and may have caused inflamed mobs that attacked U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya. He provided the first details about a shadowy production group behind the film.Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cell phone number that AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Sam Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula. Federal court papers said Nakoula’s aliases included Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others.

Nakoula told the AP that he was a Coptic Christian and said the film’s director supported the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims.

Nakoula denied he had posed as Bacile. During a conversation outside his home, he offered his driver’s license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP subsequently found it and other connections to the Bacile persona.

The AP located Bacile after obtaining his cell phone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who had promoted the anti-Muslim film in recent days on his website. Egypt’s Christian Coptic population has long decried what they describe as a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the country’s Arab majority.

Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, who burned Qurans on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, said he spoke with the movie’s director on the phone Wednesday and prayed for him. He said he has not met the filmmaker in person, but the man contacted him a few weeks ago about promoting the movie.

“I have not met him. Sam Bacile, that is not his real name,” Jones said. “I just talked to him on the phone. He is definitely in hiding and does not reveal his identity. He was quite honestly fairly shook up concerning the events and what is happening. A lot of people are not supporting him.”

The film was implicated in protests that resulted in the burning of the U.S. consulate Tuesday in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Libyan officials said Wednesday that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy employees were killed during the mob violence, but U.S. officials now say they are investigating whether the assault was a planned terrorist strike linked to Tuesday’s 11-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Nakoula, who talked guardedly about his role, pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.

The YouTube account, “Sam Bacile,” which was used to publish excerpts of the provocative movie in July, was used to post comments online as recently as Tuesday, including this defense of the film written in Arabic: “It is a 100 percent American movie, you cows.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Leigh Williams said Nakoula set up fraudulent bank accounts using stolen identities and Social Security numbers, then checks from those accounts would be deposited into other bogus accounts from which Nakoula would withdraw money at ATM machines.

It was “basically a check-kiting scheme,” the prosecutor told the AP. “You try to get the money out of the bank before the bank realizes they are drawn from a fraudulent account. There basically is no money.”

The actors in the film issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they were misled about the project and said some of their dialogue was crudely dubbed during post-production.

In the English language version of the trailer, direct references to Muhammad appear to be the result of post-production changes to the movie. Either actors aren’t seen when the name “Muhammad” is spoken in the overdubbed sound, or they appear to be mouthing something else as the name of the prophet is spoken.

“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” said the statement, obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”

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 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.

Officials in Israel said there was no record of Bacile as an Israeli citizen.

When the AP initially left a message for Bacile, Klein contacted the AP from another number to confirm the interview request was legitimate then Bacile called back from his own cell phone.

Klein said he didn’t know the real name of the man he called “Sam,” who came to him for advice on First Amendment issues.

About 15 key players from the Middle East — from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and a couple Coptic Christians from Egypt — worked on the film, Klein said.

“Most of them won’t tell me their real names because they’re terrified,” Klein said. “He was really scared and now he’s so nervous. He’s turned off his phone.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.

It quoted Klein as saying he 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.”

In his brief interview with the AP, Bacile defiantly called Islam a cancer and said he intended the film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.

But several key facts Bacile provided proved false or questionable. Bacile told AP he was 56 but identified himself on his YouTube profile as 74. Bacile said he is a real estate developer, but Bacile does not appear in searches of California state licenses, including the Department of Real Estate.

Hollywood and California film industry groups and permit agencies said they had no records of the project under the name “Innocence of Muslims,” but a Los Angeles film permit agency later found a record of a movie filmed in Los Angeles last year under the working title “Desert Warriors.”

A man who answered a phone listed for the Vine Theater, a faded Hollywood movie house, confirmed that the film had run for a least a day, and possibly longer, several months ago, arranged by a customer known as “Sam.”

ENDALL
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