There have been many stories on the topic of how the Rebels obtained the plans. It may have been in one of the later Star Wars graphic novels, but Google isn't turning up anything.

I think the plot involved Darth Vader attempting to discredit rivals by hijacking the Death Star project.

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    Not that I'm aware of. There was a canon book that described how the plans got into the hands of Leia. The third book in the Han Solo trilogy, (Rebel Dawn)[en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Han_Solo_Trilogy#Rebel_Dawn] covers this. It is no longer canon, now relegated to 'Legends' status, with Disney's purchase of the Universe. Before that, however, there was a C-canon book which described the events. – Jeff Jan 13 '17 at 21:35
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    Might you be thinking of The Force Unleashed? That game (which also had a graphic novel adaptation) had Vader and Palpatine intentionally (quasi-accidentally) starting the Rebel Alliance, and the climax took place on the Death Star; nothing about the plans, though – Jason Baker Jan 13 '17 at 21:44
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    Hmm, maybe it was the tongue in cheek comic "A Death Star Is Born" but I can't confirm: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/A_Death_Star_Is_Born? – RobertF Jan 13 '17 at 22:04
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    @RobertF - Possibly. This scene does imply that Vader is considering having the plans fall into the wrong hands in order to discredit Tarkin – Valorum Jan 19 '17 at 20:12
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    @Valorum - Ah I bet that's it, thank you. The Mon Calamari slave is Gial Ackbar (as in Admiral ("It's a trap!") Ackbar). So Vader did have an opportunity to share intel with the Rebellion - if he knew Ackbar was going to join the Rebellion, that is. – RobertF Jan 19 '17 at 20:43

The description seems to fit the end panel of the (parody) comic A Death Star Is Born.

Tarkin disses Vader in front of his troops
enter image description here

The implication in the final panel is that Vader will arrange to have the Death Star plans "fall into the wrong hands" (thus humiliating Tarkin) as his revenge
enter image description here

  • +1 Earlier in this comic, there was a funny scene where the wrong holoprojector, belonging to the engineer's daughter, was activated. So it seems Darth Vader switched the holoprojectors, perhaps giving him enough time to make a copy of the Death Star plans (which will find its way into Rebel hands) before Tarkin sees he has the wrong holoprojector? – RobertF Apr 21 '17 at 1:48

No he did not. As we see in the movie Rogue One: a Star Wars story Jen Erso steals the Death Star plans and transmits them to the entire galaxy. Also Darth Vader would NEVER help the rebels... well until the end of return of the Jedi and well you know he kinda threw his master off a cliff and saved his son and yeah... well... ._.

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    Right, I'm not disputing that the Rebels stole the plans in Rogue One. But there have been other sources (novels, comics, games) over the past 30 years depicting how the Rebels stole the Death Star plans - I seem to recall in one storyline Darth Vader gave the plans to the Rebels as part of some devious scheme. – RobertF Jan 19 '17 at 19:57

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