A movie cannot shoot in Los Angeles County without a permit, and a permit makes public the names of the film’s writer, director, and producer.
This means that answers to the question of who was behind “Innocence of Muslims,” the anti-Muslim project that sparked a wave of mob violence across the Middle East and may have created the cover for a deadly attack on US diplomats in Libya, now appear to be in the hands of Los Angeles County officials. And they are not talking.
A US law enforcement official told the Associated Press Thursday that authorities believe that a 55-year-old Coptic Christian, a US citizen named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is behind the film. A convicted felon, Mr. Nakoula has changed his version of events numerous times in interviews with various news outlets.
On Thursday, after being contacted by both the FBI and the US State Department and on its legal counsel’s advice, the office of the CEO of L.A. County removed from public availability what has been confirmed as the permit issued to shoot at least part of the anti-Muslim film. Permits are normally available online and by request from the county.
“This was done to give us time to make sure that we are not putting anyone in danger,” says Ryan Alsop, assistant CEO of L.A. County, adding, “we have up to 10 days to respond to any request, and we are just making sure that we don’t endanger up to 10 days to respond to any request, and we are just making sure that we don’t endanger public safety.”
Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., the nonprofit group charged with issuing film permits for L.A. County, confirms that a permit was issued to Media for Christ, a conservative nonprofit based in Duarte, Calif., east of Pasadena, to shoot what eventually became “Innocence for Muslims.”
The permit was pulled for a project titled “Desert Warriors,” he says, but is quick to add, “We do not get involved with the content of a movie because that would get into issues of free speech.”
It was a single day permit – for Aug. 18, 2011 – and is filed with Los Angeles County under permit number F00043012.
The filming took place at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita valley, just north of Los Angeles, according to Mr. Audley.
Calls to Media for Christ on Wednesday and Thursday received denials of any involvement. A woman who identified herself as Diana said Wednesday “we had nothing to do with the film.”
She acknowledged, however, that Steve Klein, an insurance agent and talk-show host who appears every Thursday for an hour on its broadcasting outlet, hosting “Wake Up, America,” was a “consultant on the project.”