Your article is over exagerated.
I traveled to Tibet in 2013 as a solo traveller; I wasn’t part of a tour group at all, although a tour guide was compulsory. It wasn’t difficult at all to get in, really.
All you need is to contact a travel agency and they will take care of everything and deliver you a travel permit in less than a week.
Trust me, I had a way harder time getting my visa for the US than the permit for Tibet.
Moreover, my tour guide was Tibetan and she spoke very freely to me about how she felt about China (which she was very critical of). I was also able to discuss those issues with some of her (Tibetan) friends and… monks at Potala palace!
You have to realize that visiting time at Potala is limited to 1 hour during high touristic season, that’s just the rule to avoid too much crowd so that may be why you were rushed. But if you go during low season (for instance, I went there the last week of november) you can really take your time and talk with the monks, who like pretty much any Tibetan love foreigners.
I totally disapprove of China’s politic in Tibet, but please be fair by not making it sound worse than it actually is and stop the China bashing.