Computer hackers stole top-secret codes that can identify and locate French and allied naval vessels, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The theft took place in early July at French naval headquarters in Toulon, according to the weekly Le Canard Enchaine, a satirical paper that has also gained respect for its investigative reports.
Defense Ministry officials would not confirm the report, but said the office of President Jacques Chirac has ordered an official court investigation.
Le Canard Enchaine reported that the French secret service has been investigating for more than a month without success, and it remains unclear whether the thieves were spies or ingenious computer buffs on an electronic joyride.
An American Embassy spokeswoman in Paris said Wednesday that U.S. officials “are prepared to cooperate closely with the French on this.”