US State Dept. blasts CNN report on Christopher Stevens’ diary

April 11, 2011: U.S. envoy Chris Stevens, center, speaks to Council member for Misrata Dr. Suleiman Fortia, right, at the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya. (AP)

Published September 22, 2012, Associated Press –

LOS ANGELES –  CNN reported on the  personal journal of slain American ambassador Christopher Stevens over  objections from his family, a State Department spokesman said Saturday.

The news channel, in a story posted online Saturday, said that it found a  journal belonging to Stevens four days after he died in a Sept. 11 attack on the  U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Three other Americans also were killed.

CNN broke a pledge to the late ambassador’s family that it wouldn’t report on  the diary, said State Department spokesman Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a blistering statement, Reines called CNN’s actions “indefensible.”

The channel said in the story online that it took “newsworthy tips” from  Stevens’ diary and confirmed them with other sources. Citing an unidentified  source “familiar with Stevens’ thinking,” CNN said that the ambassador was  concerned about security threats in Benghazi and a “rise in Islamic  extremism.”

In a statement Saturday, CNN defended its use of the journal’s contents and  asked “why is the State Department now attacking the messenger.”

“CNN did not initially report on the existence of a journal out of respect  for the family, but we felt there were issues raised in the journal which  required full reporting, which we did,” the channel said.

The public has a right to know what CNN learned from “multiple sources” about  fears and warnings of a terror threat before the Benghazi attack, the channel  said, “which are now raising questions about why the State Department didn’t do  more to protect Ambassador Stevens and other U.S. personnel.”

Stevens’ family was informed within hours about the discovery of the journal,  a hard-bound book that included seven handwritten pages. It was returned to them  via a third party, according to CNN’s online story.

An Italian official took control of the diary from CNN in Benghazi at the  State Department’s request, and it is en route back to Stevens’ family, the  department said.

“Given the truth of how this was handled, CNN patting themselves on the back  is disgusting,” Reines said in his statement.

“Whose first instinct is to remove from a crime scene the diary of a man  killed along with three other Americans serving our country, read it, transcribe  it, email it around your newsroom for others to read” and then call the family?”  Reines asked.

In a phone call with the Stevens family, CNN “agreed to abide by the clear  wishes of the Stevens family, and pledged not to use the diary or even allude to  its existence until hearing back from the family,” Reines said.

But four days later, “they just went ahead and used it,” he said.

The diary was first mentioned on-air Friday by Anderson Cooper, following  previous CNN reports that Stevens feared he was on an “al-Qaida hit list” but  did not mention the journal.

Cooper said that some of the information in the reports was based on Stevens’  personal journal, which he said CNN came across in its reporting.

In its online story, CNN said it found the journal on the “floor of the  largely unsecured consulate compound where he was fatally wounded.”

Asked to comment on CNN’s report that Stevens was concerned about a “hit  list,” Reines referred to a news conference last Thursday at which Clinton was  asked about it.

“I have absolutely no information or reason to believe that there’s any basis  for that,” Clinton had said.

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