Ten years ago, an unorthodox reporting team flew from New York to Hong Kong to meet someone claiming to be a spy who was ready to hand over a trove of top-secret documents. The hastily assembled group of journalists comprised the U.S. documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras; the blogger Glenn Greenwald, then a columnist at The Guardian; and myself, a Guardian reporter based in New York.
I did not know the identity of the person we were to meet. He or she had sent a “welcome pack,” a sample of classified documents that appeared genuine—but I was still uncertain, wondering whether the potential story might be an elaborate fraud or the work of a disgruntled crank. The source turned out to be no hoaxer but a contractor with the National Security Agency: Edward Snowden.