Hm. I don't doubt you about the training and so on, but I don't see how that explains the Area 51 easter egg redaction.
From a strict security viewpoint, it would have been better to avoid all comment on the easter egg - asking Apple to remove it is akin to acknowledging that the location is correct (there would have been no removal request if the location given was just a random made-up one).
Just because people receive training, and that training does explain the reasons, doesn't mean the recipients understand what they've been taught or care about the reasons. Many (most?) just thoughtlessly follow the rules.
Which may be a good thing for society - if soldiers rationally ran away, their countries would quickly be conquered. The quasi-religious indoctrinations of young soldiers and spooks may be a necessary thing. But it's still quasi-religious indoctrination.
BTW, I'm not excusing Snowdon, Manning, or anyone else on the basis that the releases were "harmless"; I agree that individuals can't be allowed to decide that by themselves.
Civil disobedience, on the other hand, is different. That's where you break the rules, knowingly, because you've decided a higher moral cause requires it. But it's a little like exercising your "right of rebellion" - the result depends on whether you win.
I have done courses in the military on SECRET equipment, and have been told not to say what the course is, or what it does, even to other people doing the course with me.
I think the intention of these rules is to prevent people from accidentally leaking additional secrets.
If Nathan NSAer sees a PRISM slide on a news site, he might think the whole presentation has become public (not just the 4 slides released so far), and then feel free to talk about stuff that wasn't released.
Their solution is this head-in-the-sand thing which, if followed to the letter, would prevent Nathan from spilling more beans (since he behavior isn't supposed to change when faced with the new facts).
You'd have to be an incredibly obedient automaton to strictly obey the rule (yet I've seen people defend it).
The rules are are dumb, but they're made to stop stupid people from screwing up. And in any sufficiently-large organization, there are going to be stupid people.
I'm tempted to say "Who are you going to believe - Page and Zuckerberg or Obama and the NSA?".
But this is an odd one. Altho the government obviously lies all the time, and tech CEOs usually don't, what motive does the POTUS have for admitting that spying is going on, if it isn't?
All I can think of is this - Obama really thinks the techs are cooperating, but they're not. The NSA has infiltrated moles inside Yahoo, Google, etc. The moles are (illegally) supplying NSA with access. The NSA tells the executive branch that the techs are cooperating (per the leaked slides - tho it's not true), in order to cover up the source of the intelligence.
If so - the leaked slides are falsely claiming to the "users" of the intelligence that the data comes from the techs - when in fact it comes from moles without the tech's management's knowledge.
Imagine you're an infrastructure manager with Apple or Google - would you hire some bright young thing with A++ recommendations from their previous employer - the NSA? Sure you would...
If this is it, it's a far bigger scandal than anything revealed so far.
I've been reading this site for a long time, and while TechDirt regularly opposes copyright and patent law (at least as currently implemented), I've never seen them opposing trademark law, at least not when used to truthfully brand products and services.