Founding Father Benjamin Franklin almost compromised the American Revolution because he refused to believe he was being spied on by Britain.
According to io9, a newly-released CIA document recalls a time in which Franklin led a team of diplomats looking to garner military assistance from France.
The CIA discovered through a series of historical documents that the team, known as the American Commission, was unknowingly being spied on by an American traitor.
Edward Bancroft, an old friend of Franklin’s and the group’s secretary, turned out to be working for Britain.
And it’s not like he had to do much to gain access to the information the British were after, thanks in large part to Franklin’s carelessness.
The CIA document says,
There was no real physical security at the Commission itself. The public had access to the mansion, documents and papers were spread out all over the office, and private discussions were held in public areas.
Servants and strangers were also walking in and out of the room in which the American Commission discussed private matters at will.
Commissioner Arthur Lee, a lawyer living in London, was immediately very concerned at the lack of security.
He eventually concluded that Bancroft had to be a spy, but Franklin didn’t believe him because he didn’t like Lee.
Franklin insisted that if he didn’t know about the spy, then the spy simply did not exist.
The document reads,
…the Commission was ‘under protection’ of the French government, and Franklin may have underestimated British capabilities to operate in a friendly third country…His ego may have overwhelmed his common sense. Like many government officials before and after him, he may have believed that he knew exactly what he was doing and that his judgement required no additional verification.
Had the British been just as good at combat as they were at spying, the outcome of the Revolutionary War could have been very different.
H/T: Kinja, Photo Courtesy: Tumblr