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The plot of A New Hope revolves around the Death Star technical plans, which Princess Leia gives to R2-D2.

How did she and the rebels get hold of the plans?

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I heard that 3C-PO did some things for some guys behind a convenience store. He also snagged some wine coolers. –  Kevin Howell May 18 '12 at 21:51
You laugh, but many Bothans died to bring C-3PO those wine coolers. –  Tacroy May 18 '12 at 22:00
I heard Edward Snowden infiltrated Imperial Intelligence and leaked the info to a journalist at The Perre Needmo Newshour. –  Lèse majesté May 1 at 15:32

4 Answers 4

It's been explained a few times; among others, the first mission in the original Dark Forces was to steal the Death Star plans, however this entry on Wookieepedia ties them all together.

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The Star Wars radio dramatization tells the story well. –  William Jackson May 19 '12 at 17:29
I haven't accepted this answer because it is not much more than a link to Wookipedia. Would you add a brief summary? –  Wikis Jun 4 '12 at 13:26
@Wikis general reference? :P –  naxa Jul 7 '12 at 9:03
The Wookiepdia link is dead. Here is the correct one. –  Alizter Jan 3 at 22:29
Thank @Alizter, I fixed the broken link. –  Jim2B May 1 at 3:45

Disney Canon

The short answer is that we don't know (yet). The mission to steal the plans will apparently be a major part of the new Star Wars spin-off film; Rogue One.

"Edwards revealed that the film will revolve around a rogue band of resistance fighters who unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans and bring new hope to the galaxy. “I couldn’t sit in a cinema and know that someone else made this film,” Edwards said in the panel. Fans were treated to concept art and a brief video that caused a packed house to erupt."

As for the EU version(s) of events, this has now been completely disregarded. Pablo Hidalgo famously quipped;

"...if you had to throw a dinner party and invite everyone who had ever stolen the Death Star plans, you'd be surprised at how many place settings you'd have to worry about."

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I'll sling the radio drama version on later today. It's non-canon but still kinda interesting –  Richard May 1 at 9:36

In the X-Wing video game series, you get to participate in several parts of Operation Skyhook, participating in several missions to gather data, cover the theft of the plans and help get the plans to Princess Leia aboard the Tantive IV.

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In the spoof comic Tag and Bink Mon Mothma's lover is a man (if I recall correctly) named Manny Both Hands. He was a spy who stole the plans in a single handed act of espionage. However Tag and Bink accidentally cause his untimely demise.

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'Manny Both Hands died to bring us this information...' –  PhilPursglove May 20 '12 at 12:07
Thank you for the correction! @PhilPursglove –  skids89 May 22 '12 at 17:59

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