The fact that the "former official" does not seem to realize this does not lead us to conclude that Snowden was brilliant... but rather that the mentioned official was anything but.
It doesn't show that the official is anything but... it shows that the official believes the American public is anything but.
On the one hand, it is a good thing to prevent yourself from constrained thinking. I work with someone who thinks exclusively in design patterns; it leads to some solid code, in many cases, but it's also sometimes a detriment to his work (overcomplicated designs, patterns used for the sake of patterns).
Unlearning all we have figured out in computer science is silly, though. Use the patterns and knowledge we've spend years honing, but use them as tools and not as crutches. I think as long as you look at something and accurately determine that a known pattern/language/approach is a near-optimal way to solve it, that's a good application of that pattern/language/approach. If you're cramming a solution into a pattern, though, or only using a language because it's your hammer and everything looks like a nail to you, that's bad.