Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford were among the last of the original leaders of the Revolution in which Big Brother's rule was established. After Big Brother had achieved his position of ultimate power, those prominent in the Revolution were systematically wiped out. Like the others before them, Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford were arrested, then they vanished for a year or more. After this interval, they reappeared to incriminate themselves, confessing to a variety of crimes including sharing intelligence with the enemy, embezzlement, murder, and acts of sabotage. After confessing, they had been purportedly pardoned and reinstated in the Party, only to be rearrested again a little later. They were given a second trial, at which "they confessed to all their old crimes over again, with a whole string of new ones." After this trial, they were summarily executed.
The significance of the story about Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford is that their confessions, like those of so many others eliminated in the purges, were false, and Winston, whose job it was to rewrite history, had once held concrete proof that their confessions were lies. Winston had actually seen the three ruined men at the Chestnut Café some time after their first confession, and so was able to recognize them immediately when he came upon a dated newspaper photograph showing them "at some Party function in New York", on the same day that, according to their testimony at both their trials, they had been somewhere in Siberia betraying important military secrets.
Winston reflected for just a fleeting moment on the damage that could be done to the Party if, in some way, the photograph "could have been published to the world and its significance made known". As it was, he held it for only a few seconds before covering it up and depositing it surreptitiously into the memory hole, where it was quickly burned to ashes (Part I, Chapter 7).