Senator Warren calls for Senate investigation into Elon Musk’s involvement in foreign policy matters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has called for a Senate inquiry into the alleged involvement of tech magnate Elon Musk in obstructing a Ukrainian drone’s attempt to target Russia’s naval fleet in the Black Sea last year.

“We need to investigate how this happened. What’s in those contracts that permits him to have this kind of power?” Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and its subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, told reporters during a Capitol Hill forum dedicated to discussions about artificial intelligence.

Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and the owner of X, formerly Twitter, attended the forum, as well as other prominent tech CEOs, according to NBC News.

“It is also the responsibility of the Department of Defense to go back and take a look at those contracts,” Warren said. “That kind of activity poses a danger to the United States, to Ukraine, and to the rest of the world.”

Musk said last week he took steps to block the Ukrainian military from using his Starlink internet service during an assault on Russian forces in 2022. This revelation has ignited inquiries into his impact on foreign policy and global events.

“Foreign policy is made by the United States government, not by one billionaire,” Warren said. “The Congress needs to investigate what’s happened here and whether we have adequate tools to make sure that foreign policy is conducted by the government and not by one billionaire.”

Musk defended this action, saying he aimed to avert the conflict worsening. This move has attracted significant criticism, notably from senior Ukrainian government officials, while garnering recent praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Hill reported.

The disclosures surrounding Musk’s role in Ukraine’s contemplated offensive emerged from a preview of historian Walter Isaacson’s book titled “Elon Musk.” According to excerpts, Musk covertly instructed his engineers to deactivate the Starlink satellite network above Russian-occupied Crimea last year. NBC News reported the move was made to prevent a Ukrainian drone strike.

Musk refuted claims he personally deactivated the service, but he acknowledged declining a request to activate Starlink, citing his reluctance to involve SpaceX directly in the conflict.

“The Starlink regions in question were not activated. SpaceX did not deactivate anything,” Musk said in a Sept. 7 post on X.

“There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol,” he wrote in another post on X on Sept. 7, referring to the crucial port city in Crimea home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

The Biden administration has refrained from extensively commenting on Musk. In an interview on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he “can’t speak” to the matter.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall also decided against criticizing Musk but did suggest that increased scrutiny of contracts might be advisable.

“If we’re going to rely upon commercial architectures or commercial systems for operational use, then we have to have some assurances that they’re going to be available,” Kendall said Monday, according to The Associated Press. “We have to have that. Otherwise, they are a convenience … in peacetime, but they’re not something we can rely upon in wartime.”

Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.

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