A US government spokesperson sharply criticised CNN, saying the network had reported on the diary of ambassador Christopher Stevens after his death at the US consulate in Libya despite the objections of his family.
State Department spokesperson Philippe Reines said on Saturday that CNN took Stevens' personal journal from the site where he and three other US citizens were killed in an armed attack in Benghazi on September 11 and used it in reporting on the story despite the express wishes of his family members.
"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 only when their curiosity is fully satisfied thinks to call the family or notify the authorities?" Reines said in a statement.
CNN responded that it did not initially report on the existence of the journal out of respect for the family, but ultimately "felt there were issues raised in the journal which required full reporting."
"We think the public had a right to know what CNN had learned from multiple sources about the fears and warnings of a terror threat before the Benghazi attack which are now raising questions about why the State Department didn't do more to protect Ambassador Stevens and other US personnel," CNN said in a written statement emailed to the Reuters news agency.
"Perhaps the real question here is why the State Department is now attacking the messenger," CNN said in the statement.
In a story posted on its website, CNN reported that it found the journal on the floor of the consulate compound, which it said was "largely unsecured."
CNN described the diary as seven pages of handwriting in a hand-bound book and said it contained tips about the situation in Libya that the network corroborated with other sources.
In his statement, Reines said that CNN staff members asked Stevens' family members at least several times in phone calls if the network could report on the contents and were repeatedly told that the family wanted to see it first.
"But the Stevens family was never given that chance. I guess four days was as long as CNN could control themselves, so they just went ahead and used it. Entirely because they felt like it," he said.