Even amid the cacophony of social media, most journalism is met with a shrug or a murmur. But ​one story the Guardian published 10 years ago today exploded with the force of an earthquake. The article revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. In case anyone doubted the veracity of the claims, we were able to publish the top secret court order handed down by the foreign intelligence surveillance court (Fisa), which granted the US government the right to hold and scrutinise the metadata of millions of phone calls by American citizens. The document was marked TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN – an extremely high level of classification which meant that it was not to be shared with any foreign governments, far less Guardian journalists or, God forbid, Guardian readers. Who knows the degree of panic that spread through the upper echelons of the US intelligence system as they tried to work out how such a sensitive document had found its way into the public domain. But that will have been nothing to the dawning realisation – in the UK as well as the US – that this was but the tip of a very large and ominous iceberg. Over the following weeks, the Guardian (joined by the Washington Post, New York Times and ProPublica) led the way in publishing dozens more documents disclosing the extent to which US, UK, Australian and other allied governments were building the apparatus for a system of mass surveillance that George Orwell could hardly have dared imagine when he wrote his dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Within a few days, the source of the documents, Edward Snowden, unmasked himself on the Guardian website and for weeks thereafter the stories dominated the news around the world. It has since been memorialised in at least three films, stage dramas, books, numerous academic papers … and even an album. It led to multiple court actions in which governments were found to have been in breach of their constitutional and/or legal obligations. It led to a scramble by governments to retrospectively pass legislation sanctioning the activities they had been covertly undertaking. And it has led to a number of stable-door attempts to make sure journalists could never again do what the Guar

Source: Ten years ago, Edward Snowden warned us about state spying. Spare a thought for him, and worry about the future | Alan Rusbridger