They are saying that for decades we have not had enough feet on the ground to cover our intelligence needs and this, lead to the rise of Bin Laden and 9/11 and other attacks.
Why? Because, as I've been saying for two decades now, we needed people on the ground. I came to realize this before the first war in Iraq. All the writings by ex spies, those in charge of our spy agencies, and in other countries, all pointed at an attempt of government to do spying on the cheap, to use satellites and monitoring over that of actual people to be inserted in groups to ask actual people questions, to do real espionage.
I first heard of this in the 80s with the Reagan Administration. They wanted to cut taxes, and cut government, cut spending. Great, except that you need to expend money, LOTS of money in some areas to do a good job. Nothing works like a personal relationship on the ground, in a room with those directly involved in the area, the culture, and what's going on. Normally, I'm all for cutting expenditures.
The thing is, you cannot do espionage on the cheap. That is how you get Intelligence Officers, agents and civilians killed (please refer to 9/11). We of course cannot just blinding throw any amount of money into a black hole. But then again, yes we can, and have to. We do need oversight, but we also cannot have complete oversight. And therein lay the problem. When we do it right, there isn't enough accountability and so there is a back lash; so things change as they did, but then you have dysfunctional, as we've had now for years.
So what IS the answer? I'm not sure there is one. You need a blend of different types of espionage and some of it will, by its nature, be unaccountable. But we need to bite the bullet and do it. When it comes to light that your operatives have gone off the deep end, then you will need to take action. With good infra and command structures, if you hire and well train good people, this is of less concern. The issue usually is in trying to cut corners. We cut corners on the strangest things: teachers, espionage, infrastructure. It's like we are totally clueless as a people on what is important.
Most of the answer, I believe, lay in having professionalism. Quality people, quality training and quality support. Provide those things? And quality things happen.
But that's not cheap.
overview. It also has a nice graphic of the hierarchy.
Finally as I mentioned, there is the oversight situation. This page have a good review of all this so I won't go into it here.
The bottom line is we need better intel and it is not easy, nor is it cheap, but it has to be done. Think of it as a football game. We go onto the field with an understanding of our own capabilities and the other team's capabilities. But we also go on the field with an understanding that we are playing American football (not soccer, rugby, baseball, or hai lai). But we have been entering into the field, or the theater of war not even fully understanding what game we are playing. In the arena of out side of the theater of war, in the espionage field, it's even more blindly penetrated.
In the end, we need a blend of all possible forms of intel that we can get, coordinated and delivered to those who need the intel. Keeping intel secret and not using it, has also been a problem. There is nothing simple about it.
But first, to get to where we need to be, at the level we need to be in it, we need to not only open our eyes, we need to first have eyes available that we can open and open them in the right places as much as possible; which takes intel, before the intel, to get the right intel.
Espionage has always been a shady and hidden endeavor. To "win" (and the "win/lose" dichotomy is the wrong one, but one everyone seems to understand) one simply has to be better at it than the other guy. But in our case, we have to get into the field of play to begin with. And that takes not being so afraid of being found out, lacking the funding, etc., that you simply don't do anything.