This brings me to my quesion, would they have had time/ability to download the intel on the vessel in the escape pods? Does this thing happen automatically? Would Starfleet allow escape pods to contain such info?
Once or twice, we saw Kirk specifically order up-to-date records to be loaded to a buoy or courier pod to be jettisoned as the ship prepared to meet an invincible enemy. Also, Kirk often had great trouble contacting his superiors over subspace, what with time delays and possibly being out of range altogether. So back in those days, all the data the ship had gathered would most probably have been lost in an incident like this.
On the other hand, we never really saw comparable scenes in the TNG era. And we never got good examples of data uploading speeds; for all we know, a Records Officer (brevet) heading for the pods could have remembered at the last second to perform his or her duty, punch an isolinear chip into a dataslot, press one of those mysterious LCARS buttons that launches a complex operation with single keypress, pull the chip out one second later, and thus carry all the crucial mission logs in his or her pocket.
The scenario where copies of the logs would automatically go into all the pods just before pod jettison is somewhat less likely, I guess. For the tactical reasons you already mentioned if not for anything else.
I'd say that for the ending of the episode to be dramatically poignant, we must assume that the intel on the Dominion ship was not
salvaged, and that therefore the mission was ultimately a failure. The crucial point is that Watters has
completed the mission and should probably have got their ass out of there, but he opts to go for one more bite of the cherry... which results in the death of his crew and destruction of the ship. So his efforts were fruitless and wasteful. Going back to engage the Dominion ship negated all the good work that had been achieved to that point.
he was operating the Valiant under radio silence, so obviously the intel didn't get out that way. The final scene pretty much underlines that the only people left who can tell the story of what happened are Jake, Nog and Dorian. Unless the CPO somehow brought all the information with her, and putting aside any theoretical "black box" type device, I think we can safely say that the intel didn't get out. Certainly, as I said earlier, it's more dramatic
if everything Red Squad achieved got washed away by their own collective hubris, and Watters' thirst for glory in particular.