Beating a Dead Horse

In 1969, the FBI decided to launch a new offensive against the Communist Party — by sterilizing its farm animals.

Researching a piece for Jacobin on the sixtieth anniversary of the FBI’s first COINTELPRO operation, Branko Marcetic dug up a small but ridiculous mission carried out in 1969.

After acknowledging that the Communist Party USA was on its last legs, the Bureau decided it wanted to harass the Reds anyway. As FBI assistant director William Sullivan recalled:

Even though the CPUSA was finished we kept after them. Early in 1969 we learned that the Soviet Union planned on sending [CP chairman Gus] Hall a gift of some expensive stallions and mares which Hall planned to ship to his brother’s farm in Minnesota. They expected to breed thoroughbreds and sell the colts to help fill the coffers of the party. On learning about the impending gift to Hall, one of the imaginative men in my division came up with an idea [which Hoover approved]. He contacted a veterinarian, and without telling him what it was about, got the doctor to agree to inject the horses with a substance that would sterilize them before they were taken off the ship in New York.

Well-played, J. Edgar. Well-played.