Meet Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Who Might Be "Sam Bacile," Anti-Muslim Filmmaker

Who is Sam Bacile, the dude who thinks that the Libya and Egypt embassy attacks were the fault of bad security, and who produced a vitriolic anti-Mohammed film, or portions thereof?

Well, there might be no such person. It may be an alias of a convicted fraudster named, among other things, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

I thought you might like to know about Mr. Nakoula, so I headed to PACER and downloaded some records from his case.

Here is the federal criminal complaint against him. It also serves as the application for a search warrant. The action starts in paragraph 7. Note: a federal criminal case starts in one of two ways: an indictment returned by a grand jury, or a complaint (almost always) by a magistrate judge. Cases started with a complaint are almost always supplemented with an indictment soon thereafter. Here, unlike complaints I have criticized in the past, the complaint is very professional. It has very good attribution — that is, it is clear how the affiant knows everything the says. The complaint contains a good narrative of the evidence against Nakoula.

Here is the indictment against Nakoula — the formal charges returned by the grand jury (meaning, the charges the U.S. Attorney's office decided to offer to the grand jury.) It has a narrative of the crime, but not the description of evidence.

Here is the Judgment and Commitment Order reflecting Nakoula's conviction and sentence. I note that it includes a condition of supervised release, as widely reported, that strictly limits computer and internet use:

7. Defendant shall not possess or use a device with access to any online service at any
location without the prior approval of the Probation Officer. This includes access through
any Internet Service Provider ("ISP"), bulletin board system, or any public or private
computer network system. Further, defendant shall not have another individual access the
Internet on defendant's behalf to obtain files or information that defendant is restricted
from accessing personally, or accept restricted files or information from another person;

8. Defendant shall use only those computers, computer related devices, screen/user names,
passwords, e-mail accounts, and ISPs approved by the Probation Officer. Computer and
computer-related devices include, but are not limited to, personal computers, personal
data assistants (PDAs), Internet appliances, electronic games, and cellular telephones, as
well as peripheral equipment, that can access, or can be modified to access, the Internet,
electronic bulletin boards, other computers, or similar media. Defendant shall use any
approved computers only within the scope of his employment. Defendant shall not access
a computer for any other purpose. Defendant shall immediately report to the Probation
Officer any changes in defendant's employment affecting defendant's access and/or use of
computers or the Internet, including e-mail;

9. All computers, computer-related devices, computer storage media, and peripheral
equipment used by defendant shall be subject to search and seizure, and subject to the
installation of search and/or monitoring software and/or hardware, including
unannounced seizure for the purpose of search. Defendant shall not add, remove,
upgrade, update, reinstall, repair, or otherwise modify the hardware or software on any
computers, computer related devices, or peripheral equipment without the prior approval
of the Probation Officer, nor shall defendant hide or encrypt files or data. Further,
defendant shall, as requested by the Probation Officer, provide all billing records,
including telephone, cable, Internet, satellite, and similar records;

I also note indications that Nakoula may — may — have cooperated with the government. Those indications are suggestive, but are not conclusive proof one way or the other.

So. People, Nakoula. Nakoula, my peeps. Talk amongst yourselves.

Edited to add: Scott thinks I should commit and say Sam is Nakoula if I think that. When I began to write the post, I hadn't reached that point. Now I have. I'll leave the original title and first paragraph as is, though. By the way, I am not relying on the anonymous government confirmation.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. TTC says

    Sigh, I really wish we had a better poster child for free speech. Sadly, it's the assholes whose free speech that needs to be defended at the top of the slippery slope.

    On a side note, I don't know why you're being so snide about the deficient security at the consulates. It was a really big problem, and contributed to the loss of life. In the consulate in Lybia, they were only protected by a single locked door and four Lybian gaurds (one of whom was compromised). This was the level of security they had, even after suffering an IED attack. In Egypt, the Ambassador refused to let the Marine gaurds carry live ammunition.

  2. says

    I don't think I'm being snide. But "Bacile" saying that he blames bad security is monstrous. The blame belongs to the members of the mob.

  3. David Schwartz says

    I don't think blaming security in any way reduces the blame on the mob. If security was lax, then there's just more blame to go around.

    The analogy I usually use is a guy who stuffs his pockets with $100 bills, some even hanging out, and walks through the worst neighborhoods after dark. When he gets robbed, we can blame him for doing something stupid. This in no way takes blame away from the robbers though. That someone made their job especially easy and profitable doesn't make their acts any more justified. There's just another person to blame, and more total blame to go around.

  4. bbeenie says

    No, that "someone made their job especially easy" means that their job was easier. The robbers still made the decision to rob, and therefore, are entirely to blame.

  5. EH says

    David Schwartz: The problem is, of course, that your hypothetical never happens in reality. But hey, as long as we're looking for ways to enlarge the blame-bucket, where do you draw the line? How about the architects of the building that was overrun?

  6. Fred Bush says

    From Judgment and commitment order, #5: "nor shall the defendant use, for any purpose or in any manner, any name other than his/her true legal name or names without the prior written approval of the Probation Officer;"

  7. says

    > 7. Defendant shall not possess or use a device with access to any online service at any location without the prior approval of the Probation Officer

    I read that short story. William Gibson and Michael Swanwick, right? The lights on the top of the top of the Washington Monument look just like rat eyes.

  8. says


    > I don't think I'm being snide. But "Bacile" saying that he blames bad
    > security is monstrous. The blame belongs to the members of the mob.

    The mob certainly is to blame.

    On the other hand, having credible information 48 hours in advance and doing nothing ( ) doesn't exactly reek of competence. On the other hand, Bush sat and read a book for 7 minutes, so, um, Hitler!

  9. says


    Diplomacy is complicated. Even the infrastructure of diplomacy is complicated.

    The consulate in Benghazi was in a temporary location. That's because the situation in Libya has been sort-of stable for only months. Constructing a secure consulate building is a 3-year effort at minimum.

    The lack of US Marine Corps Security Guards is no indication that security was taken lightly. Not all diplomatic missions have them for a variety of very valid reasons. Among those reasons: the host country won't allow it; the mission is too small to warrant a security guard detachment; the USMC Security Guard detachments are 'reward' assignments that only go to top-performers and there may not be enough of them available to staff a mission; neither State nor the USMC may have the funding readily available to pay for a security detachment.

    Marine Security Guards are not combat troops. Although they have the training, of course, they are not armed for combat. Weapons are primarily defensive — things like tear gas and flash-bang grenades. Offensive weapons are limited to handguns, shotguns and — sometimes — a few M16s.

    The role of the USMC Security Guards is not to defend human life, though of course they will do that where possible. Their first order of business is solely to buy time for the destruction of classified documents and equipment. Once that's done, they can put down their arms or shift to a more aggressive role. What they do, however, is determined by the Rules of Engagement established by the US Ambassador in the country in consultation with State and the USMC. I have no idea what the ROE are for Libya.

    The security assessment for Libya, done before 9/11, indicated no area of specific concern or threat. This assessment (as was done in all embassies and consulates in Islamic countries) was conducted by State (including members of the Office of Diplomatic Security), the US military, and other agencies. If a threat is not identified, it is not going to be defended against.

  10. TTC says

    Ken, please reread this quote from your post

    "Though Bacile said he felt sorry about the death of the American who was killed in the outrage over his film, he blamed lax embassy security and the perpetrators of the violence."

    He clearly attributed blame to the mob. You also quoted the whole thing in your post. Tone aside, this is why I thought you're being snide.

  11. Kat says

    I feel like I'm missing something here. I'm trying to figure out what you base the two being linked on. If it's just that the names sound similar then I'm not hooked, but I have a feeling that it's not just that. Anybody help a confused person out?

  12. Nicholas Weaver says

    What adds to the interest is that if it is Mr Nakoula, its a joe-job as well as Muslim baiting. A Coptic Christian inciting Muslims, but inciting them to think that the Jews are responsible: smearing two major religions at the same time…

  13. John David Galt says

    I have not followed the links to see the crime(s) of which Nakoula was convicted. However, the shocker for me was paragraph 9. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the government should be allowed to impose those restrictions on anybody, ever.

  14. Grifter says

    @John David Galt:

    Parolees often have no rights from search and seizure. I am under the impression that's a general rule. They also aren't allowed, in many cases, to even drink, or to consort with any friends who may have been convicted in the past of any crimes. I doubt "supervised release" is much different (and, on the subject of searching, well, it's not heavily supervised if he can hide stuff).

    Whether that's a good thing or not, I'm not commenting, just that it's a common thing.

  15. David Schwartz says

    EH: If the building was badly designed in a way that contributed, then sure blame the designers too. There can be a large number of parties all of which deserve some portion of the blame. Of course, it's insane not to put the major portion of the blame on the people who were trying to kill someone.

  16. Nicholas Weaver says

    Oh, and even in my 1st amendment loving heart, I rather relish the idea of pulling this a-hole's probation. If this is the guy, he's a real scum-sucking piece of work: Meth cook, financial fraudster, AND deliberate provocateur.

    As a convicted felon on probation, he agreed to the "no computers" terms. Just as my respect for the 2nd amendment doesn't mean we shouldn't throw felons back in jail when they get an illegal gun…

  17. AlphaCentauri says

    @Kat: follow the link from Mr. Nakoula's name: "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. "

  18. AlphaCentauri says

    Do the actors have any legal standing to have their scenes edited out if they were deceived as to the content of the script?

  19. Ariel says

    My only comment, sort of, is I was taught to attack the message not the messenger. Some sort of liberal, free speech, rational thought thingie. "Rose out of a dunghill" is always a possibility, though Cleland used it much, much differently.

    Ken, your prosecutor is showing. Neo-nazis support the Palestinian people, gee, who'd have thunk, therefore the Palestinian arguments are wrong? (BTW, I do realize that "Palestinian" is a creation of Arafat c. 1967, the Arabs of that region consider themselves Syrian or Jordanian, not Palestinian as that meant "Jew" previously, but politics are crap when it comes to definitions.)

    Necessary disclaimer: I do not agree with this man that Ken is attacking, whatsoever, I just don't agree with Ken's method of attacking his message.

  20. ShelbyC says

    " thinks that the Libya and Egypt embassy attacks were the fault of bad security"

    I'm not sure what's wrong with blaming bad security, in addition to blaming the killers. If, for example, I were to hear about some place that was robbed while the security guard slept, I would probably assign some blame to the security guard. That doesn't diminish the blame for the robbers.

  21. bvierra says

    A few things from what I have been reading. The US did not know in advance of the attack, you both cited the same article that stated an unnamed source said it. The office of The Director of National Intelligence said this is absolutely not true:

    The Feds have confirmed the identity:

    As for the Libya not being secure enough, that is a simple one. It was temporary due to the regime change. An Embassy takes years to build, you cannot just say we will wait until the Embassy is built before we go there. Could the security have been better absolutely. But at the same time all evidence shows this was not the Libyan people that attacked. They condemned the attack and the killing. It looks like this was without a doubt an attack by Al Queda or an offshoot, was well planned and funded. Since the Libyan govt is working with us, maybe we should let it play out before going off on them.

  22. ShelbyC says

    I'm not sure why I'm hearing so much about Mr. Nakoula. On the scale of offensive and insulting material available on the internet, the youtube video was rather mild. And yet, because certain individuals decided to react violently to this particular speech, Nakoula is being subject to an inordinate amount of criticism, way beyond what one would normally be subject to for a satirical video mocking religion (there are many insulting scientology, mormonism, etc.) In this respect, the terrorists were successful at getting people to sympathize with their cause. This is unfortunate.

    And it's quite possible that Nakoula had someone post the video on his behalf. No violation, since that person would not be accessing information on his behalf.

  23. Ariel says

    Security at our embassies, as well response to attack, does reflect administrations. Anyone want to argue the point?

    As for Nakoula, when, really when, did we succumb to the messenger is the message? This is a really bad road to go down…

  24. says

    This attack was not about the film. That is what you are missing. That inflamed the mob (for sure) and did not help. But the attack was planned months in advance, involved fighters coordinated and was intended to kill personnel. It was driven over drone attacks of al Qaeda and to mark 9/11.

    I support free speech. The film is a piece of crap (and if this guy is a Copt, it is Copts in Egypt who will pay a heavy price for this). But this film did not kill our Ambassador and personnel. It was Zawahiri and al Qaeda who did that.

    Obama's handling of these events has been terrible.

  25. Gavin says

    I was under the impression that he blamed the mob and the security. Neither area of blame is in any way fictitious.

    The mob is to blame to the attack, 100%.
    The embassy is responsible for its security, 100%, especially in potentially hostile areas.

    The embassy's security is only responsible in as far as the success of the mob's attack whereas the blame of the attack itself is only theirs.

    While this guy is an ass for plenty of reasons, I don't think emphasis should be placed on that half of his statement.

  26. Gavin says

    Wait, the complaint is that he tried to cash faulty checks? That is certainly a crime but what does it have to do with the issue at hand?

  27. Nicholas Weaver says

    Nothing of note in the OC courts: well, two traffic tickets but that doesn't count. LA courts cost $$$ to search.

  28. Dan Weber says

    Ugh, the Diane Rehm show has a bunch of people saying that the movie was "inciting violence." Goddamn.

  29. bvierra says

    wow @EBL do you not fact check anything? You basis that the Obama administration did nothing was based off of a report from a UK newspaper that the Office of Defense Intelligence says is a flat out fabrication.

    A) You take anything written as true
    B) You believe an unnamed source vs The Office of Defense Intelligence

    While either are plausible, neither make sense. Due to this I assume you are just a SOE troll looking to help your page ranking.

  30. says

    bvierra, do you take Jay Carney's statement that the attack in Benghazi was solely due to that youtube movie clip and not an al Qaeda attack (that was planned for a long time) at face value? I do believe the Administration is lying and panicking over politics and not giving straight answers. I can't confirm the 48 hour notice, but it would not surprise me at all if it is true.

  31. says

    biveierra, and I suppose that attack on the MFO base today in North Sinai was just a mob too. These are organized al Qaeda attacks who are using the mob as cover for assassinations.

  32. Jules says

    The security point is an issue, especially when it comes to 9/11 anniversaries. And Gavin, the point of Nakoula's past is that he is a Bad Man and now we can condemn him more vigourously. What I don't get is people who call themselves "liberals" are promoting censorship for ideological reasons. Are civil libertarians a threatened species?

  33. John David Galt says

    @Nicholas Weaver: Apples and oranges. To ban a convicted felon (at least if violence was involved) from possessing a gun is reasonable, because of the harm he could do with it. To ban someone from having or using a computer does not serve any plausible similar purpose, unless the parolee can be shown to have the abilities of Kevin Mitnick; and to ban him from having others post articles for him couldn't be justified even then. Effectively, the right to use the Internet *is* the right to free speech, and cannot legitimately be taken away except for a few specific types of harmful messages.

    And his "agreement" to the conditions was under duress and thus has no moral validity.

  34. Jules says

    @John David Galt Well, technically no inmate has a right to parole, so he was free to say "no thanks" and stay in prison.


  1. […] Below are links to several posts from the Popehat law blog. Popehat, whose very name could be considered insulting by Catholics, if they chose to see it as an insult, writes about First Amendment law. The principal writer, Ken White, was a federal prosecutor for six years and has been a federal defense attorney for twelve. He does know what he's talking about. His opinions are stated in language somewhat stronger than I might use on a blog, but that's his right. Meet Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Who Might Be "Sam Bacile," Anti-Muslim Filmmaker […]