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Dem senators seek answers on Elon Musk, Ukraine’s Starlink access

Did Elon Musk limit the Ukrainian military’s access to communication networks? Several Democratic senators are asking important questions.


It was about a week ago when Sen. Elizabeth Warren demanded an investigation into Elon Musk’s SpaceX. As Bloomberg News reported, the company’s founder acknowledged that he’d blocked Ukraine from extending the private Starlink satellite network for an attack on Russian warships, and the Massachusetts Democrat was determined to get some answers.

As NBC News reported, within days, Warren was not alone.

Three Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are asking Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for answers about whether Elon Musk or other commercial satellite providers disabled or restricted the Ukrainian military’s access to communication networks and whether the Defense Department has the authority to intervene.

The report was in reference to a letter sent to the Pentagon last week from Warren, as well as Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, seeking clarification on what exactly happened.

Around the same time, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed also said that recent revelations related to Starlink exposed “serious national-security liability issues and the committee is engaged on this issue.” The Rhode Island Democrat went on to say, “The committee is aggressively probing this issue from every angle,” added that the panel would look at the broader satellite market, government contracting, and “the outsized role Mr. Musk and his company have taken here.”

“Neither Elon Musk, nor any private citizen, can have the last word when it comes to U.S. national security,” Reed said in a written statement.

If you haven’t heard much about this burgeoning controversy, Rachel’s A block from last week is well worth your time. The spark that started the fire was the release of Walter Isaacson’s Musk biography, which includes a story about the Ukrainian military planning to launch an attack on Russian navy ships, only to be thwarted — based on the book’s account — by Musk personally intervening to prevent that from happening by restricting Ukraine’s access to his Starlink satellite network.

NBC News’ report on this added:

Initial media reports about the book said Musk disabled the Starlink network near the Crimean Peninsula after conversations with senior Russian officials. After the reports, Musk took to his social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, to argue that he did not discontinue Starlink over Crimea but instead refused a request by Ukraine to provide it there.

With this in mind, Warren, Shaheen, and Duckworth asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to bring the relevant details into focus. “The differing versions of events further highlights the confusion surrounding the circumstances of this reported incident,” they wrote. “The confusion over what actually happened during this Ukrainian attack — and Mr. Musk’s specific role — demands answers.”

What’s more, as The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted, the senators also want the Defense Department to clarify what actions officials are taking to “prevent further dangerous meddling.”

As best as I can tell, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have not expressed any related concerns, but they’re in the minority on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which means the GOP’s apparent indifference will not slow the panel’s investigation.