Elon Musk is a military contractor, continued
And looks like Ukraine's been good for business.
Last week, when the Elon Musk Twitter drama hit its peak and tech billionaire fanboys like Glenn Greenwald were going through miles and miles of Twitter feed and Substack email space to praise the man as a radical outsider who’s gonna stick it to the evil elites that run our Internet world, I expressed some serious doubts. I pointed to the fact that Musk is a military contractor — a private spy who’s been raking in hundreds of millions of dollars fitting out tech for the most secretive and “strategically important” intelligence agencies in America.
I still stand by that statement. And I have something else to add — a bit about a Ukrainian connection.
Back in February Musk announced he was sending a bunch of his Starlink terminals to Ukraine so that the military can keep Internet connectivity going, even if Russia destroys telecom infrastructure. At the time, it seemed like Musk was making the donation himself. This was a personal gift from one of the wealthiest people on the planet. He just wanted to help the Ukrainian people.
Well, last night Lily Lynch sent me a press release from USAID showing that the U.S. government was actually much more involved than Musk let on.
Doing a bit more digging, I realized USAID wasn’t a minor partner — but a seemingly major one, not only buying a bunch of Starlink dishes but arranging and funding the transport costs to get those things into a war zone. Yep, looks like Musk’s altruistic gift to help the people of Ukraine was in part funded by a U.S. government agency…an agency with a history of fronting for various covert soft power operations, including meddling in Ukraine. There’s USAID’s “Cuban Twitter” project. Remember that?
Joey Roulette @jorouletteThe US Agency for International Development says SpaceX donated "roughly $10 million" worth of 3,667 Starlink terminals and associated internet service to Ukraine. 5,000 terminals were delivered in total, with USAID buying "the additional 1,333 terminals."
I missed this story. But reporters from Reuters and the Washington Post tried to track down the murky details of this deal about a month ago. As The Verge recounts:
Despite SpaceX implying that the US didn’t give money to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine in March, a report from The Washington Post reveals that the government actually paid millions of dollars for equipment and transportation. The report found that the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, paid $1,500 apiece for 1,333 terminals, adding up to around $2 million. USAID disclosed the number of terminals it bought from the company in a press release from early April that has since been altered to remove mentions of the purchase.
According to space reporter Joey Roulette, SpaceX donated 3,667 terminals to Ukraine, or around $10 million worth, after also factoring in the three months of data it provided with the terminals. However, it’s possible this donation was partially subsidized by USAID’s $1,500-a-unit purchase.
…It is possible that USAID was also paying for internet service, which costs $110 a month for Starlink’s standard plan and $500 a month for its premium plan available with the more expensive terminals. The Washington Post also reports that USAID agreed to pay more than $800,000 for transportation of the 5,000 terminals that were sent to Ukraine through what the agency now calls a “public-private partnership.”
Love the altruism from Musk. Supporting Ukraine and getting praised for it, while making money off the war. Best of both worlds, really.
Anyway, none of this is very surprising. Pretty much every tech billionaire and platform — from Bezos to Zuck to Brin and Page and the rest — is tied up in one way or another with America’s sprawling security state. I point all that out in my book, Surveillance Valley.
What’s funny to me is all the Musk fanboys — headed by Glenn Greenwald, who apparently hasn’t met an “outsider” spy-connected tech billionaire he hasn’t liked — are out there doing Musk’s PR for him, telling everyone he’s gonna stick it the evil elites with his bread and circus Twitter takeover bid. So let me just repeat: Musk is an American oligarch, a dealer of private rocket and satellite services to American military and intelligence agencies. How do you think he’s gonna run Twitter?
PS: What’s interesting is that Musk’s “charitable” gift to Ukraine will, in the long run, no doubt be very good for the future his military and weapons business. It’s a clear demonstration of his satellite telecom tech functioning very well and very quickly in a war zone. There will probably be a lot more militaries trying to get their hands on his dishes now, after this real-life war zone demonstration. And…already the praise is rolling in, with Pentagon officials telling journalists they’re tearing up just thinking about how effective these Starlink dishes are. Ka-ching!
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