U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper said on Thursday the law that allows American government agencies to collect communications from internet companies only permits the targeting of "non-U.S. persons" outside the United States.

Responding to articles published by the Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper, Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement that the stories contained "numerous inaccuracies," but he did not offer any details.

The Post and Guardian reported that the U.S. government tapped directly into the servers of leading U.S. internet companies, allowing agents to examine emails, photos and other documents.

(Reporting by Jim Loney; Editing by Eric Beech)