Army Targets Medal of Honor Recipient Over Amazon Book Review

Search of Will Swenson’s trash, harassment of neighbors, followed mention on Amazon

William Swenson awarded the Medal of Honor, Washington D.C. / AP
February 26, 2015

The United States Army is accused of spying on one of its own war heroes.

The Daily Beast reported that Will Swenson, a Medal of Honor recipient, came under investigation by the Army simply because he was referenced in a paragraph-long comment on Amazon.

The comment appeared in 2011 by Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn about The Wrong War by former Pentagon official Bing West. In his comment, Golsteyn thanked Swenson. Golsteyn was a decorated Green Beret who was investigated over allegations of violating military protocol in the death of a Taliban bomb-maker in 2010. He was subsequently forced out of the Special Forces and lost his Silver Star award, even though charges were not brought up against him.

The Army’s Criminal Investigative Division sent agents to Seattle to question Swenson because of the assumed connection between Golsteyn and Swenson. The Army has drawn scrutiny for staking Swenson’s house and digging through his trash.

"There’s good reason to suspect that the investigation into Swenson was really about his award, his criticism of the Army, and the hope that agents would find something to shut him up," one source close to the investigation said.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) has been critical of the military for its shoddy treatment of combat troops. In 2013, Hunter and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) wrote a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh inquiring about the search of Swenson’s trash and questioning of his girlfriend and neighbors.

"We are particularly interested to know why special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command visited Swenson's residence in Seattle, Wash., even going as far as confronting his neighbors," Hunter said. "What is or was the relevant connection between Maj. Golsteyn and Mr. Swenson?"

In response to The Daily Beast’s report Thursday, Hunter released a statement condemning the actions of the Army.

"The U.S. Army is utilizing its investigations arm as a tool to retaliate against soldiers.  I’m convinced," Hunter said.

"Multiple high-profile cases verify that investigators and leadership, without proper cause or evidence, are utilizing the investigations process to influence outcomes or unfairly punish soldiers.  In one case yet to be reported, a very senior Army leader recently insisted an investigation be initiated against a soldier because he was asked to discuss information with Congress—and my office in particular. That’s not right. And in the case of Swenson, Golsteyn and others, there’s solid evidence of abuse."