Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Is Beating U.S. at Spy Game, Official Says

WASHINGTON -- Russia has more spies around the world than the United States and the intelligence gap has widened since the Cold War, the staff director of the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday.

"Most places I go it [Russian intelligence] is a factor of several larger than the U.S. intelligence presence, and that factor is larger than it was 10 years ago," John Millis told a symposium at the Smithsonian Institution.

Russian spies monitoring the United States also outnumber Americans spying on Russia, said Millis, a former CIA officer.

"The number of Russian intelligence operatives working here officially in the United States has not gone down since the Cold War," he said.

Asked about the level of Russian spies on unofficial cover, Millis replied: "My guess is that U.S. intelligence would be grateful if they had one-tenth of the capability deployed against Russia as Russia has deployed against the U.S."

Last year, Russian diplomat Stanislav Gusev was expelled from the United States after he was caught allegedly monitoring a listening device hidden in a State Department conference room.

Russia expelled a U.S. diplomat identified as Cheri Leberknight, saying she was caught red-handed with an array of spy gadgets.

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees conduct congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence programs.

Millis said the United States needed to improve several aspects of its intelligence operations. "The U.S. intelligence community is woefully unprepared for the future," he said. "I think in fact we're in big trouble."

Areas needing improvement were coordination of the vast array of intelligence operations spread out over many agencies such as the CIA, National Security Agency and various offices in the Defense Department, he said.

The CIA director is in charge of only one-seventh of the U.S. intelligence community in terms of funding and even less in terms of personnel, he said.

More investment was needed to analyze information so it could be used by U.S. policy-makers to make decisions, Millis said.

A "single-digit" percentage of the intelligence budget, which is classified, goes toward analysis of all the intelligence collected, he said.

Millis urged a stronger role for spies, who he said were "well-suited" for the types of intelligence needs facing the United States in the future, such as uncovering information about terrorist cells and drug cartels.

The United States also needed to have "much stronger covert action," Millis said. For example, on the political front "we must have the capability of influencing foreign media ... this is particularly the case in countries where there is no free press," he said.

The United States can covertly encourage free exchange of ideas and the development of a free press, and "that's a very important, very powerful tool," he said.