Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian has sort of become the face of news reports that the Obama administration has been amassing data of U.S. citizens via online activity and phone records. After all, it was he who broke the initial news last week.

But had it not been for a Washington Post reporter’s discriminating palate for what the government leaker (Edward Snowden) was offering up, Greenwald might have never been in the picture…

Post reporter Barton Gellman has a first-person account of his correspondence with Snowden, before Snowden came forward publicly as the leaker:

To effect his plan, Snowden asked for a guarantee that The Washington Post would publish — within 72 hours — the full text of a PowerPoint presentation describing PRISM, a top-secret surveillance program that gathered intelligence from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley giants. He also asked that The Post publish online a cryptographic key that he could use to prove to a foreign embassy that he was the document’s source.

I told him we would not make any guarantee about what we published or when. (The Post broke the story two weeks later, on Thursday. The Post sought the views of government officials about the potential harm to national security prior to publication and decided to reproduce only four of the 41 slides.)

Snowden replied succinctly, “I regret that we weren’t able to keep this project unilateral.” Shortly afterward he made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper the Guardian.