WASHINGTON -- Two of America's top spymasters Wednesday fervently denied accusations that they illegally snoop on U.S. citizens at home and abroad by reading e-mail, tapping cellular phones or even listening to baby monitors.
In a scene sometimes reminiscent of the spy scandals of the 1970s, when congressional hearings exposed flagrant abuses by U.S. intelligence services, the House Intelligence Committee grilled George J. Tenet, who heads the CIA, and Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who directs the National Security Agency.
Both repeatedly insisted that their services have stayed within legal limits set by Congress and executive orders over the last two decades. Both also argued that no new laws are necessary to safeguard American privacy rights from government spies.
But Rep. Porter J. Goss, R-Fla., who chairs the committee and who spent 10 years in the CIA's clandestine service, cited ''concerns that the NSA operates in a very secret environment without any oversight or legal strictures in place to guide and control (its) conduct.''
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