The Biden administration is debating whether the US should review some of Elon Musk’s business projects for national security, including a deal to buy Twitter Inc and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, reports Bloomberg.
As noted, there is growing concern among US officials over Musk’s recent threat to cut off the Starlink satellite communications service to Ukraine, as well as his posts on Twitter about peace proposals favorable to the Kremlin. Officials are also concerned about Elon Musk’s plans to buy Twitter with a group of foreign investors.
Discussions are still at an early stage, sources told the media on condition of anonymity. Officials in the U.S. government and intelligence community are weighing what tools, if any, could allow the federal government to begin probing Musk’s businesses.
One possibility is a law governing the activities of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which allows for the review of Musk’s deals and operations for national security risks. An interagency panel known as CFIUS reviews acquisitions of American businesses by foreign buyers. But it’s not yet clear whether the CFIUS review, which will include analysis from the State Department, Defense Department and Homeland Security Department, will offer the government a legitimate way to conduct the review, the sources said.
One element of the $44 billion Twitter deal that could trigger a CFIUS review is the presence of foreign investors in Musk’s consortium. The group includes Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Binance Holdings Ltd., a digital asset exchange founded and run by a Chinese native, and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
The group operates behind closed doors and rarely confirms when it conducts inspections. CFIUS also has the power to review agreements that have already been entered into. A Treasury Department official said CFIUS does not comment publicly on any transactions that may or may not be pending.
Musk, the world’s richest man, has used Twitter in recent weeks to announce proposals for peace talks with Russia and threatened to cut financial support of Starlink satellite internet in Ukraine. His tweets and public comments have disappointed officials in the US and Europe and drawn praise from Russian officials.
Musk later backtracked on his threat to stop funding Starlink for Ukraine. Satellite Internet became an important communication tool in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Musk provided the service for free, but said SpaceX was losing $20 million a month providing it to Ukraine, and he could not be responsible for those costs indefinitely.
The U.S. government will also use Starlink in the event of a telecommunications outage, according to people familiar with the matter.
Musk did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment. But he wrote on Twitter in response to one reader’s reaction to the Bloomberg article:
“It would be hysterical if the government stopped Elon from [overpaying] for Twitter????” a reader tweeted.
💯🤣, answered Musk.