Sometimes, though, it is the United States that inadvertently gives up its own secrets.
In April 2001, a Navy EP-3 electronic surveillance plane landed on China’s Hainan Island following a midair collision with a Chinese fighter jet. The American ambassador to China said at the time that he assumed that Chinese government officials examined the plane after its 24 crew members had been removed from the airfield. Upon landing, the crew had only been able to destroy some, but not all, of the sensitive eavesdropping equipment it contained.
A decade later, when SEAL Team 6 raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, the operation succeeded in killing the Al Qaeda leader and capturing many pounds of documents, but the SEALs also left behind an intelligence bonanza of their own: one of the two stealthy helicopters