By Art Moore
Asked at a White House press conference Wednesday whether the new owner and CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk, posed a threat to national security, President Biden said the billionaire's "relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at."
The reporter asked: "Do you think Elon Musk is a threat to U.S. national security and should the U.S., with the tools you have, investigate his joint acquisition of twitter with foreign governments, which include the Saudis?"
Biden replied: "Elon Musk's cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at. Whether or not he is doing anything inappropriate – I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting it's worth being looked at, and that's all I’ll say."
Prior to the midterm elections, Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, urged voters to vote Republican. He argued Monday on Twitter, "Shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties, therefore I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic."
He's also criticized Biden, as CNBC noted, for favoring the legacy automakers' electric vehicle ventures over Tesla, despite its success.
In his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter, he invested billions of his personal wealth. But he also asked some major existing shareholders to roll their stakes into his holding company. Among the shareholders is Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who now is the second largest Twitter shareholder. The kingdom of Qatar, also was part of the deal to acquire the social media network.
Last month, the White House denied reports that the administration was discussing launching a national security review of some of Musk's ventures, including Twitter.
However, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, chairman of a Foreign Relations subcommittee, has asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review the financing behind the Twitter deal.
In a letter to CFIUS in late October, the lawmaker expressed concern about the impact of foreign ownership on free speech.
"Setting aside the vast stores of data that Twitter has collected on American citizens," he wrote, "any potential that Twitter's foreign ownership will result in increased censorship, misinformation, or political violence is a grave national security concern. Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive countries in the world, with little to no tolerance for free expression."
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who chairs the finance committee, issued a statement expressing concern about the Saudi regime's potential access to Twitter account information.
"Given the Saudi regime’s history of jailing critics, planting a spy at Twitter, and brutally murdering a Washington Post journalist, the Saudi regime must be blocked from accessing Twitter account information, direct messages and other data that could be used to identify political opponents or to suppress criticism of the royal family," the senator said.
"I've long argued that the United States has a national security interest in protecting Americans’ data from murderous foreign governments, and this Saudi regime absolutely fits that description."
Author: Art Moore