U.S. Treasury Department officials are reportedly looking at whether they have the legal authority to investigate Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter due to his close ties to foreign governments and investors, which includes entities that are hostile to the United States.
The Washington Post reported that officials are concerned because “large foreign investors would have access to confidential information about Twitter’s finances — and potentially its users,” under the terms of Musk’s purchase of the company.
The report said that the FBI was also looking into potential counterintelligence risks posed by the acquisition this spring but it was unknown where the Bureau was currently at on the matter.
The White House was reportedly weighing last month subjecting Musk’s business dealings to national security reviews because of how much power he has acquired. Bloomberg News reported that the administration specifically wanted to scrutinize Musk’s Twitter deal and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network. The White House denied these claims.
The Washington Post specifically noted that the areas of concern are related to “a Saudi prince’s holding company and a subsidiary of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund,” which are some of the investors backing the deal. An even more problematic investor is the Chinese cryptocurrency exchange Binance, and Musk has extensive ties to communist China through his role as CEO of Tesla.
Treasury staff at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) are reportedly investigating whether Musk’s purchase of Twitter could spark a national security investigation after a 2018 legislative update allows CFIUS to investigate “not only foreign ownership, but minority stakes in critical areas, including sensitive personal data held by businesses.”
Andrew Grotto, a former senior director for cybersecurity policy who focused on CFIUS under the Obama and Trump administrations, warned that hostile entities potentially gathering sensitive data on Americans would be a grave national security concern.
“That is an area where I think CFIUS has some pretty robust authority to ensure that Americans’ personal data isn’t exploited nefariously by a foreign government,” he said. “That springs to my mind at least as one major vector for CFIUS to pursue an investigation.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) requested that CFIUS “conduct an investigation into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Twitter.”
“We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting U.S. politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform,” Murphy said. “There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review.”