Long history of government leaks continues with staffer

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By Monica Hesse and Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shocking news just broke that more than 30 lawmakers are under investigation by the House ethics committee. Who was blamed for releasing the confidential sleuthing report? A low-level staffer, natch, the Official Scapegoat of Washington. ¶ The staffer had apparently stored the file on a home computer with file-sharing software used for downloading free music and movies. Ruh-roh! ¶ Accidents happen . . . and happen. . . . and happen -- and not just with computers. In fact, "Oops, my bad!" has long been the mantra of the government drone -- and the phrase translates in any means of communication.

HAND-DELIVERED LETTER

A Confederate soldier accidentally drops Robert E. Lee's battle plans, wrapped around cigars, in a Maryland field. The plans are discovered by a Union soldier. Just in time for Antietam. 1862

TELEGRAM

Foreign Secretary of the German Empire Arthur Zimmerman telegraphs his ambassador in Mexico, instructing him to promise support for a Mexican invasion of the United States. Unfortunately, the telegram was sent on British cables (the German cables were wrecked). The Brits intercept it. The Americans declare war on Germany. 1917

ADDRESS BOOK

CIA agent Bernard Barker leaves his address book in a hotel room with a little notation reading "WH HH." As in White House. And a White House consultant named Howard Hunt. Watergate ensues. 1972

INTERNET BULLETIN BOARD

The Treasury Department, in an effort to collect -- and thereby prevent -- computer viruses, instead makes the viruses available to the public on its Automated Information System bulletin board. 1993

SNAIL MAIL

New Jersey politician Mike Mostovlyan means to send a book to a Pennsylvania mayor who is convalescing in a hospital but mislabels the package; instead sends her the parcel meant for a friend. It contains dead fish. 1993


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