Many people believe that intelligence and intelligence gathering agencies are omnipotent organizations filled with motivated super-humans. The reality is far more mundane.
It is very important to understand that mature intelligence and related agencies are just another department of the government they serve. Therefore they also share all the problems, quirks and characteristics of that government and by extension the country/culture they exist in.
Thus all intelligence (and related agencies) which have ever existed share some organizational flaws and problems. Let me list them..
1] All intelligence agencies are plagued by departmental politics and turf wars over resource allocation. There is almost no way to escape this problem, as they are not self-funded. While some might make some money on the side (running drugs or through legitimate front businesses) most of their funding comes from the government they serve.
2] The overall mandate of intelligence agencies is often very vague. Since there is no way to predict the next problem or issue, most of them have to be agile enough to adapt. However in combination with the issues referred to in 1] it will always create significant internal hostility and turf wars. Creating or exaggerating problems to get funding for an agenda or working group is very common.
3] Intelligence agencies rarely get or manage to retain the best talent or the most creative types. Those types just don’t like to play inside the stifling, rigid, hierarchical organizations that characterize most intelligence agencies. Only during times of major wars, or immediately after one, do the ‘best and brightest’ choose working in intelligence as a career.
4] Actionable intelligence is very hard. Anyone who has worked or seen the workings of an intelligence agency will know what I am talking about. Translating all available information into a usable recipe for action with multiple options and scenarios is problematic under ideal conditions. Doing so under standard working conditions is challenging, especially since both a very good past record or poor record are problematic- albeit in their own ways.
Will write more in future posts of this series.