#2. High-ranking British Intelligence Director Leaves Classified Documents on a Public Train
Richard Jackson was an important deputy director of a U.K. Cabinet office, analyzing anti-terrorist information obtained from MI5 and MI6 forces. If James Bond were real, Jackson would be the guy reading over his field reports. Of course, that's more than a full-time job (tracking all of the sexy double agents their agents bang probably takes 40 hours alone) so he was known to take work home with him. You can see where this is going.
So, as he left the office with a stack of homework, unknowingly sandwiched in between boring government reports were two uber-classified documents about "Al-Qaeda vulnerabilities" and "an assessment of the Iraqi security forces," neither of which were supposed to leave the office unsecured, which you probably could have guessed from the titles alone.
"Mind if I pass the time by reading highly classified information over your shoulder?"
Now, this could have still turned out perfectly fine. It's not like anyone magically knew the secret documents had left their secure government building. There was still a chance he could have simply noticed his mistake and brought them back the next day, with no one the wiser. But as Murphy's Law dictates, things were not done going wrong for Mr. Jackson.
That's right: He got home and realized he had left the documents on the train.
"Milk? No, I have that. Toilet paper? No, I just put that away. What the hell am I missing?"
In a panic, he spent his day frantically calling every lost and found office imaginable, asking if anyone had turned in a bright orange envelope they'd found on the London metro. No one had. Fortunately, a passenger did find the envelope and clearly realized they were incredibly important. Unfortunately, they sent them to the BBC.
The BBC reported the loss, and Jackson was put on trial, essentially for being stupid. He wasn't imprisoned, though he was fined 2,750 pounds, demoted three grades, and transferred to a different, less security-heavy department.
There's really no pretending to have dignity about this.
Still, Jackson can take comfort in knowing he's not the only one. A week later, somebody else did the exact same thing. This time, it was a top-secret briefing about how banks can be used to finance weapons of mass destruction. You know how in the movies, secret agents handcuff their briefcase to their wrist when they take public transportation? Well, they do that specifically so bullshit like this doesn't happen.
#1. A Taliban Spokesman CC's His Entire Mailing List
Here are the two most dangerous fields on your computer:
Especially if you click the "attachment" button after your fifth drink.
We're talking about the CC and Bcc fields in your email program, which determine:
A. Who gets publicly copied on your emails
B. Who gets privately copied on your emails
AKA: how you can accidentally send your entire family nude selfies.
Lives have been ruined by the split-second, accidental addition of the wrong parties to one or both of those boxes -- for instance, if you email your co-worker saying your boss can go fuck himself, and copy the boss on the message. And if you are, say, the member of an organization running covert operations, you want to make sure your fellow operatives stay in that "Bcc" field. Which brings us to Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.
He was a Taliban media spokesperson, because of course the Taliban has one of those (it's 2013, if the zombie apocalypse happens, the freaking undead will have a media guy). His duties consisted of taking press releases, most of which admit to committing this bombing or that mass murder, and forwarding them to journalists and other people in the know.
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
"No comment about trading heroin for helicopter-murdering rockets."
This Employee Of the Month received one such press release from his bosses and immediately did the forwarding thing. All well and good, except he copied the list of recipients to CC instead of BCC, thereby revealing the Taliban's entire mailing list to the world.
So who are the Taliban's secret buddies? Mostly journalists, but the list also included a governor of an Afghan province, a member of the Afghan national legislature, several academics, a bunch of political activists, and a spokesman for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a brutal Afghan warlord who has committed many acts of violence against coalition troops.
Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Shown here, planning the genocide of his enemies.
All 400-plus people now knew of each other's existence, and their connection to the Taliban. As journalist Mustafa Kazemi tweeted, "Taliban have included all 4 of my email addresses on the leaked distribution list. Quite reassuring to my safety." When a guy stuck in war-torn Kabul decides that your dumb ass is the reason he's not safe, it might be best to eschew email altogether going forward and go back to carrying coded messages on the back of a goat, or however you and your bomb-crazy buddies communicated before computers came around.
For more terrifying slapstickness, check out 7 Bullshit Rumors That Caused Real World Catastrophes and The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time.