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September 24th, 2012
02:26 PM ET

CNN's Mark Whitaker and Frances Townsend respond to criticism from State Dept. over U.S. Ambassador Stevens' journal

Increasing confusion continues to swirl about what exactly happened in that attack on the American consulate in Benghazi admist disagreement about whether the attack was pre-planned. The State Dept. has also been criticizes CNN regarding the handling of U.S. Ambassador Stevens' journal. CNN's national security contributor Fran Townsend and Executive Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN Mark Whitaker address the criticism this morning on “Starting Point.”

Whitaker says that CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon gained access to the mission in Libya and found a journal which unbeknownst to her belonged to Ambassador Stevens. After Damon looked at the journal, Whitaker says “it became clear that it was writings from Ambassador Stevens.” Whitaker says discussions pursued and “it became clear that this was [Ambassador Stevens’] personal property and what we had to do was first approach his family and see if they wanted it back.”

After contacting the family, arrangements were then made to return the journal to them through the State Department, says Whitaker. He adds that CNN also spoke to the family about what could be reported regarding, “newsworthy issues that were raised specifically on the issue of what the ambassador thought about possible terror threats and the fact that he might actually be a target of al-Qaeda.”

Whitaker says that CNN “didn’t immediately report on the existence of the journal and any of those details” but thought “there was a legitimate national interest in pursuing this question of the possible terror threat.” Adding, that CNN continued to report on “the possible terror threat” for the next few days while securing additional sources.

Townsend says that when the news of the Ambassador's death first broke, no faction of the government including the State Dept. had "not acknowledged that it was a terrorist attack. So [the journal] was an in dication." "We had information and an obligation to report it to the public. We had information quite the contrary that at least in the ambassador's mind there was a distinct terror threat directed at him."

Filed under: Libya
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Ted O'Connor

    Some people cannot exit gracefully. Fran Townsend is one of them. Desperate to stay in the news. Please go away Ms. Townsend.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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