By finding and using Mr. Stevens’s personal handwritten thoughts, CNN provoked an unusually sharp condemnation from top officials at the State Department, who called the network’s conduct “disgusting.”

“Not a proud moment in CNN’s history,” said Philippe Reines, senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…

CNN said on its website that it notified the Stevens family “within hours” that it had the journal. The Stevens family then reached out to the State Department, which arranged a telephone conference call between members of the family and CNN. In that call, the family asked the news organization to return the journal and to not publish or broadcast any of its contents, according to a Stevens family member and State Department officials.

Family members and State Department officials said CNN agreed during the Sept. 14 conference call to hold off on using the diary until the family had a chance to review its contents.