Elon Musk biographer Walter Isaacson claims the billionaire sold Starlink equipment to US military and even created special ‘Starshield’ for them during Ukraine conflict after getting in over his head with geofencing
- Author Walter Isaacson claimed Elon Musk sold and gave total control over a ‘certain amount’ of Starlink equipment to the US military
- He said the Tesla and SpaceX CEO created a special version of the satellite technology called ‘Starshield’ during the Ukraine – Russia war
- The Department of Defense would neither confirm nor deny the details of its deal with Musk or Starlink, but told DailyMail.com it does contract with the company
Elon Musk’s biographer Walter Isaacson has shared more alleged details of his government Starlink deal, claiming he sold equipment to the US military during the early days of the Ukraine war.
Walter Isaacson said the Tesla and SpaceX CEO also created a special version of the satellite technology called ‘Starshield’ after getting in over his head with geofencing.
It comes after Isaacson claimed in the book that Musk abruptly turned off Ukraine’s access to the satellite internet system last year. He later walked back the claim, clarifying that Starlink was never activated over Crimea.
The Department of Defense would neither confirm nor deny the details of its deal with Musk or Starlink, but told DailyMail.com it does contract with the company for satellite communication services.
The author who wrote Elon Musk ‘s new biography has claimed the billionaire sold and gave total control over a ‘certain amount’ of Starlink equipment to the US military
Walter Isaacson said the Tesla and SpaceX CEO also created a special version of the satellite technology called ‘Starshield’ during the Ukraine – Russia war after getting in over his head with geofencing
Isaacson said Musk was worried his satellite technology could start a nuclear war and ultimately decided to hand responsibility to the US military.
‘You know, I’ve talked to him during this whole thing, and there was late one night, he said, “Why am I in this war?”,’ he told The Washington Post.
‘He said, “I, you know, created Starlink so people could chill and watch Netflix movies and play video games. I did not mean to create something that might cause a nuclear war.”
‘And then I just asked him, and it was a question. But I think he, you know, took it as maybe prodding. I said, “Have you talked to Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor? Have you talked to General Mark Milley of the joint chiefs?”
‘And he had. He been talking to them, and he said, “If they tell me to do something, I would do it if I got a directive”.’
Isaacson claimed Musk then decided to sell and give up control of certain parts of Starlink.
Geofencing is the use of GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a device enters or leaves a particular area.
The author added that the billionaire created something called ‘Starshield’, which is the military version of the Starlink satellite, during the Ukraine – Russia conflict.
‘I think that was his way of saying, “I got to get out of this. Even I don’t believe I should have this much power”,’ Isaacson said.
‘Of course, that leads to a larger question too, which is, why couldn’t the US, why couldn’t any other US company, why couldn’t the military have built satellites that work?
‘But now they’re buying these Starlink satellites, and I think that kind of resolves the situation.
Musk began providing free access to Space X’s Starlink internet terminals in the early days of the Russian invasion in February 2022, which have been vital in allowing Ukrainians to communicate and coordinate their resistance. Pictured: A starlink antenna is seen covered in camouflage in Ukraine, December 2022
Isaacson said Musk was worried his satellite technology could start a nuclear war and ultimately decided to hand responsibility to the US military
Ukrainians are pictured standing near a Starlink terminal in November 2022 in Kherson, to use the internet
‘You and I at least would prefer to have the US government be in charge of making that decision as opposed to Elon Musk, a private citizen.’
He added: ‘This guy read superhero comic books in the corner of the library when he was a little kid because nobody would play with him, and I think he internalized the notion that sometimes you run around with your underpants on the outside and try to save the world.’
Isaacson was forced to walk back on a major claim in his book days before it was released.
Isaacson was forced to walk back on claims in the book that Musk abruptly turned off Ukraine’s access to the satellite internet system last year
An excerpt from the book, said: ‘He secretly told his engineers to turn off coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast,’ fearing the sneak attack would lead to a ‘mini-Pearl Harbor’ scenario and nuclear war.
‘As a result, when the Ukrainian drone subs got near the Russian fleet in Sevastopol, they lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,’ it added.
But Musk himself hit back at the explosive claim, saying that Starlink was never activated over Crimea, and he had received an ’emergency request from government authorities.’
He said that he ultimately denied their request, saying the ‘obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor.’
Ukraine’s military had harnessed the technology to pilot drones carrying anti-tank grenades, destroying Russian tanks and army trucks.
The claim triggered a sea of questions over Musk’s role as a key figure in the war, with Isaacson forced to admit his mistake.
‘As you know, the Ukrainians were launching a secret attack on the Russian fleet in Crimea using Starlink to get these drone submarines there, and that night, Musk got very excitable,’ the author said.
‘He can be apocalyptic at times, and he told me that “I’m not allowing him to use Starlink. I’m not allowing them to use Starlink because it could start World War III.”
‘I made a mistake, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, and I’ve said–which as I put in the book–he cut off Starlink.
Local residents use a Starlink terminal, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, on January 31
A Ukrainian soldier of the 61st Separate Mechanized Brigade uses the Starlink system in June this year in the Chernihiv region
‘In fact, what he did was reaffirm the decision that it would not be enabled on the Crimean coast, and I have all the text messages back and forth because the Ukrainians didn’t know that.’
He claimed Musk did not enable it at Crimea and kept that secret.
‘It was geofenced, as I said. He felt that the terms of service was–it wasn’t supposed to be used for offensive purposes,’ Isaacson added.
‘You and I can discuss all you want whether or not Crimea, you know, is part of Ukraine and it should have been included, but it wasn’t.
‘And, you know, why didn’t he tell the Ukrainians exactly where the geofence was? Frankly, I don’t know.’
A Department of Defense spokesman told DailyMail.com: ‘As we’ve stated previously, the Department does contract with Starlink for satellite communication services in support of our Ukrainian partners.
‘However, due to the critical nature of these systems – and for reasons of operational security – we have not released additional information regarding their specific capabilities or other operational details.
‘The Department continues to work closely with commercial industry to ensure we have the right capabilities the Ukrainians need to defend themselves – and more broadly – the kind of communication and space-related capabilities necessary to accomplish our own global missions and support our national defense strategy. Beyond that, we do not have additional information to provide.’
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