The sixth living servicemember to be honored with the Medal of Honor was spied on by Army investigators over an Amazon book review that mentioned his name.
Captain Will Swenson received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 15, 2013 for his heroism during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan in 2009. His trash was rummaged through, leading up to the ceremony with President Obama, and his girlfriend and Seattle neighbors were confronted about his whereabouts.
“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. All of the details the Army was looking to confirm were all within their reach from the beginning, without speaking to Swenson,” said a source knowledgeable about the investigation told The Daily Beast on Friday.
Capt. Swenson, who returned to active duty in April, 2014, was highly critical of commanders after he survived a Sept. 8, 2009 ambush in the the Ganjgal Valley. His nomination for the Medal of Honor was also delayed for at least two years after officials lost his version of events, Stars and Stripes reported Oct. 15, 2013. Three Army officers were eventually reprimanded months after the battle — which killed five U.S. troops — for “negligent leadership” during air support requests.
The online comment that prompted the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) to observe Capt. Swenson’s neighborhood was made by Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn in 2011. He was reviewing the book “The Wrong War,” by former Pentagon official Bing West. Maj. Golsteyn called Capt. Swenson a “friend.”
Maj. Golsteyn was forced out of Special Forces and was stripped of his Silver Star after the army investigated him over the killing of a Taliban bomb-maker in 2010. The officer was suspected of violating protocol, but charges were never bought against him.
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“We are particularly interested to know why special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command visited Swenson’s residence in Seattle Washington, even going as far as confronting his neighbors. What is or was the relevant connection between Maj. Golsteyn and Mr. Swenson?” Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) wrote in a letter dated Nov. 13, 2013, The Daily Beast reported.
A response by Secretary of the Army John McHugh came January 15, 2014. He wrote “Mr. Swenson had also been deployed to Afghanistan around the same time period as MAJ Golsteyn, and was potentially in the same area of operations when the alleged offenses under investigation took place,” The Daily Beast reported.
The Daily Beast asked the Secretary of the Army’s public affairs office for comment, but was referred to CID. The investigative division would not answer specific questions pertaining to the story, but put out a statement: “CID investigates allegations of criminality by soldiers in peace and war. We have previously confirmed an investigation involving Maj. Golsteyn and we’ve nothing more to add.”