Way back in the early 70s, U.S. Navy Intelligence uncovered a dastardly espionage plot that reached into the very heart of their Saigon office!
Well, not quite…
In fact a local informer, hoping for a lucrative reward, informed a Navy officer that he had overheard a Vietnamese national, who worked at their Saigon office, say that he had been selling discarded Navy documents to a local cookie seller for some time. Dismayed at the leak, and obviously dealing with an agent of some cunning to have operated under their noses for so long, Naval Intelligence immediately made investigating this “Cookie Lady” their number one priority. Careful observation of her might give them that all important first link in uncovering a major spy-ring! Consequently an intelligence officer was dispatched to identify and observe the “Cookie Lady” as discretely as possible.
This he did by the simple expedient of going up to her and buying some cookies, which he received neatly wrapped in a crisp paper package… with the words “U.S. NAVY - CONFIDENTIAL” stamped across it. Instead of a master spy, the “Cookie Lady” was instead a budding entrepreneur who, on hearing the office worker remark about how much paper his employers just threw away, offered to pay him for any paper he could recover for her. At a stroke she halved her packaging costs, making cookie selling just that bit more profitable. Neither she nor the office worker could read any English. Neither person was charged, and security at the Saigon office was immediately tightened.
As Hanlon’s law says, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
Especially when that stupidity might be your own.