Elon Musk Isn’t Too Big to Fail: StarLink Denial of Service to Ukraine Crossed a Red Line

Elon Musk is not “too big to fail” and in crossing the red line of denying Ukrainian military access to StarLink Internet service so he could thwart their drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet, after having just spoken to the Russians without the US government officials on the line, he needs to be reined in by all three branches of the US government, in a bipartisan manner before he turns into Dr. Evil and does something worse to the US military.

Art by Kyiv Artist Alexander Nikityuk

Elon Musk personally made the decision to deny the Ukrainian military his StarLink Internet service in Crimea once he found out they were planning a drone attack on the Russian naval ships moored in Sevastopol, thereby thwarting the attack. This amounts to what is called both an “act of omission” and an “act of commission” that together can be construed as a willful denial of service by an American Internet Service Provider CEO under contract to the Pentagon. It was an act against the interests of American national security, of an American ally under attack by Russia, and against the interests of Ukraine civilians and children under active bombardment by missiles launched from those same Russian naval ships in the Black Sea. The causal link between Elon Musk’s denial of service action, his Russian conversations, and the thwarting of Ukraine’s drone attack is an undisputed fact. It is also something else as a matter of law: Or, if not yet, it should be.

It crosses a red line for the richest man on earth, a South African-born naturalized American citizen, to play the Charlie Brown’s Lucy with his space-based internet service football that Ukraine now depends on for battlefield command and control and reconnaissance. That after having provided it first for free (which was awesome at the time — great for PR Elon), then paid for by the US taxpayer (less awesome). Then he yanked his football away with little advance warning when they got too close to attacking Putin’s precious Crimean naval fleet. As an American ISP with a DOD contract he had a duty to disclose he reserved the right to deny Internet service anywhere within Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders, at his sole discretion, without permission and without due notice to the US government or Ukraine.

I will note that this is exactly the kind of denial of military support to Ukraine my opponent Anna Luna and her so-called “Freedom Caucus” pals are advocating for in their “Ukraine Fatigue Resolution” (HR-113) publicity stunt.

How many Ukrainian children and civilians have died from Russian naval bombardment or military assents brought to Crimea on Russian ships since you denied service Elon? This is an immoral act, a mortal sin if you will. Ukraine is fighting a just war for its right to exist as a nation of free people in the face of Russian war crimes on a scale not seen since Hitler’s indiscriminate V2 rocket attacks against London in World War II. 

You’re not a god Elon. You’re not Zeus looking down with your StarLink laptop on us mere mortals deciding who lives, who dies, and which Russian military assets get targeted and where. Pick a side. You’re either all in on the side of the American people and our democratic allies…like your own South Africa, or it’s hit the bricks pal.

Having reaped the benefits of American democracy like no other in all of American history, our infrastructure, our government policies, NASA launch facilities, tax breaks, our workers, subsidies, benefits which helped make him the richest man on earth, Musk is suddenly acting as if he is an enemy of the state. Why is that I ask?  Has he been compromised by Russia too? It’s a reasonable question to raise based on this radical change in his behavior alone.

From his perch atop of SpaceX and StarLink, he now has a constructive commercial monopoly on the only integrated at-scale global supply chain for low-earth-orbit satellite internet service wherever he chooses to provide it, or deny it. Alongside that, he now has a Putin-Trump-friendly publishing platform. In hindsight, that’s probably why he bought Twitter.

He’s just saving the world from nuclear Armageddon, he says. Really, he’s just laundering Kremlin talking points just like Anna Luna and Trump. And just like them, he takes Putin’s word over the assessment of America’s own intelligence agencies and military. That is, if he even deigned to ask them first before denying service in Crimea. He went right from secret Russian phone call to the StarLink “geo-fence trigger on/off-switch” and he commanded his underlings to keep the switch in the “off” position: Acts of omission, and commission. What American and Ukrainian military secrets did Musk reveal on his phone calls with Russia? Were there any American civilian employees of StarLink or SpaceX in the room or on the line for his Russia calls? Any witnesses?

Musk’s actions are the equivalent of General Dynamics’ CEO having a satellite-activated F-16 kill-switch that gets flipped any time a Ukrainian F-16 flies over Crimea, after talking to Ukraine, getting their military plans, then talking to Russia. Or, in terms of military communications, it’s like the defense contractor L3’s CEO automatically turning off soldiers’ radio gear if it’s carried across the Dnipro river into Crimea, after talking to Russia. American defense contractors don’t get to decide when their systems work, or don’t work based on geo-location on the pretense that they’re saving the world. What colossal hubris.

Musk gushes like a teenage gamer about being able to see the entire Ukraine war unfold on his StarLink console on his laptop. This ain’t Halo Elon. Put your big boy pants on and stop playing games with the lives of tens of millions of Ukrainians.

In the Internet age, one man with a laptop can change the world, for better or worse. Perhaps, even me.  But no one civilian, unelected, accountable to nothing but his ego, should have that much power. The decision should be made by a US general serving as a Combatant Commander, or an intelligence community director accountable to our President, to our national security policy, and under strict rules of engagement. Just like our own drone strikes against terrorist targets.  Congress approved the military aid packages for Ukraine. President Biden signed them into law. There has been no legal challenge to them in the courts.  Luna’s Ukraine Fatigue Resolution is toothless. The Pentagon is paying Musk for Ukraine’s StarLink Internet service. Who the hell does he think he is?

I call for the Biden Administration and Congress to enact an executive order and legislation resulting in the break-up Elon Musk’s monopoly on commercial space-based internet service and its supply chain. Perhaps we should have an emergency temporary government seizure of StarLink, and deploy our military officers and sergeants in SpaceX and StarLink control centers like in the sci-fi series Stargate SG-1. Let Musk fight it out in the courts while Ukraine takes back Crimea and the Donbas. By the time it gets to the Supreme Court, it will be too late for the GOP donor-compromised Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to make a difference.  Musk has proven he can’t be trusted and as such, I call for an FBI and DOJ investigation and bipartisan Congressional hearings on Musk and his dealings with Russia…and China.

If we let Musk get away with this now, the next thing you know he’ll be denying service to NASA, NATO, the US military, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, any time Putin or Kim Jung Un threaten nuclear war, or whenever Trump threatens violence, or just because it’s bad for business, or because they’re all Jews. Remember the “Jewish space lasers?”  Imagine space lasers controlled by a neo-fascist South African-American Elon Freaking Musk. 

I will note also that some of Musk’s Teslas and their chargers are manufactured in Shanghai so at any given moment, President Xi can exercise his leverage over Elon too, threaten to seize his Tesla factories and make his own electric vehicles based on stolen Tesla designs. Good luck suing China Elon.

It’s time to break up this South African-American faux-patriot-gone-rogue monopolist whose been riding the Devil’s train to fascist dictatorship ever since he bought Twitter. He’s quickly morphed into the South African equivalent of Australian Rupert Murdock and Fox News:  Accountable to no one, spewing antisemitic and fascist Kremlin talking points. Imagine if Rupert Murdock ALSO owned StarLink instead of Musk. What if Musk were to buy NewsCorp and Fox News.  OMG. Talk about Armageddon.

This is way more critical than the Google anti-trust lawsuit, Hunter Biden, and Biden impeachment hearings. So let’s get Musk in the dock, get him under oath in front of Congress, the cameras, and the American people, and behind closed doors before the Gang of Eight in the Senate and House, and in front of the FBI’s investigators. 

You think you’re too big to fail, Elon? Think again. Despite all your riches, the only thing you’ve grown too big for is your own britches.

And while your StarLink satellites may fly high above us Elon, no one, no matter how rich, flies above the law. You, sir, have flown too close to the sun, and now you’ve been burned.

Let this serve as your burn notice.

John Liccione is a Democratic candidate for the US Congress in Florida’s 13th Congressional District where he is the only declared Democratic Candidate running against Anna Luna in 2024. (VoteLiccione.org)

He is also Founder and CEO of RussiLeaks, an online media company (RussiLeaks.com) solely focused on exposing Putin’s secrets and those of his agents on American soil.  He is also the Founder and CEO of Leaks Media, a start-up media company whose mission is “Exposing the Secrets of the Enemies of Democracy.”