In the first Star Wars film (“A New Hope”), Leia gives their only copy of the Death Star plans to R2-D2. Then later on, Darth Vader is informed that the plans are not on the computers of the Tantive IV, the ship that she was captured on. This leads him to correctly infer that the plans were somehow sent off-ship, probably through the escape pod without life.

Now, in the Legends background, the plans are transmitted to the Tantive IV through the ship radio, which means they likely had to be stored on the ship’s computer at one point. In fact, I doubt that the Rebels would only have a copy of the plans on the disk that Leia gave to R2-D2, because such a disk would be a quite obvious method of transporting the plans. Why not give a copy, and make the Empire believe that the plans are still on the ship?

Since canon might not suffice, answers that involve Legends are equally valid for me.

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    That would give the Empire proof that they had the plans, which wouldn't be a good idea, to say the least. – Rogue Jedi Sep 12 '15 at 19:59
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    She was attempting to HIDE the plans from the Empire, not just deliver them. Her cover as a legitimate Imperial Senator was very important to the Rebellion. – Omegacron Sep 15 '15 at 19:20
  • Why did you delete your HP deaths question? It was a good question. – ibid May 23 '16 at 21:13
  • @ibid Because it was getting close votes for "too broad", and I agreed with those. Any complete answer would just be a list of deaths like you can find on the Wiki, and that's not really what SE is about. Questions about "who was drunk in Harry Potter" make sense because there is no list of who got drunk in HP, but there is already a list of who has died. – Nzall May 24 '16 at 6:22
  • @Nzall - List questions (within SE's guidelines) happen to be one of my favourite parts of this site. I had many problems with HP wiki's list, and definitely do not think that it answered your question. (A useful resource in constructing an answer? Yes. An answer by itself? No.) – ibid May 24 '16 at 6:38

Because she's labouring under the impression that her cover is still valid. In the absence of the plans (the only copy of which she's physically sent to the surface), her hope is that Vader will have no choice but to let her go rather than risking an incident with the Senate.

LEIA: Lord Vader, I should have known. Only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit for this, when they hear you've attacked a diplomatic...

VADER: Don't play games with me, Your Highness. You weren't on any mercy mission this time. You passed directly through a restricted system. Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by Rebel spies. I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.

LEIA: I don't know what you're talking about. I'm a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan...

Later on it becomes apparent that (unbeknownst to her) Vader was very well aware of her connections to the rebellion, that the Senate is about to be dissolved and that the Tarkin Doctrine will be enacted in full force now that the Death Star is online.

But she couldn't have known that when she was deciding what to do with the plans.

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    This seems like a pretty laughable cover given what we see in Rogue One though. – HamHamJ Dec 19 '16 at 19:08
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    @HamHamJ - Well indeed. She wouldn't be the first politician who tried to brazen their way out of an arrest though. - huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/… – Valorum Dec 19 '16 at 19:13

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