FBI Releases Files Showing ‘Ever-Present’ IRA Threats Against Queen Elizabeth II

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Whenever the late Queen Elizabeth II visited the U.S., the FBI remained on high alert to protect her from potential threats—often from the Irish Republican Army and its sympathizers, according to 102 pages of FBI records released Monday following the monarch’s death last year.

First requested by NBC News via the Freedom of Information Act and posted on the FBI’s electronic resource library, called “The Vault,” the documents compile memos, newspaper clippings, teletype communications, and other records of Her Majesty’s visits dating back to 1976. The files reveal how the FBI, in partnership with the Secret Service and local authorities, geared up before and during the British royal’s trips to American soil.

The IRA was a paramilitary organization that sought to bring an end to British rule in Northern Ireland and unify the island under a single government. The group often used violent means to achieve their goals.

Considering the monarchy’s complex relationship with Britain’s first colony, and the death of Queen Elizabeth II’s second cousin from a bombing in Ireland at the hands of the IRA, the FBI’s hyper-vigilance over the English head of state comes as no surprise.

Ahead of a 1983 visit the Queen made to see then-President Ronald Reagan in San Francisco, the city’s police department corresponded with the FBI to warn them of a male patron of an Irish pub “frequented by [IRA] sympathizers,” according to a partially-redacted teletype.

An unnamed officer in the document claimed that a month before the visit, the man—who said a rubber bullet killed his daughter in Northern Ireland—called him and threatened to kill Queen Elizabeth II.

“This man additionally claimed that he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth and would do this either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia when it sails underneath, or would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park,” the teletype reads.

In response, the document noted that the Secret Service intended to “close the walkways on the Golden Gate Bridge as the yacht nears.” It also said that the patron has been cooperative in previous interviews with authorities but “makes no secret of his sympathies for the IRA.”

On a different occasion in 1989, the FBI prepped for visits from Queen Elizabeth II to a series of states across the country, with one teletype citing “several anonymous threatening telephone calls” to Kentucky police. The document said the Secret Service and local law enforcement would help stand the queen’s ground, but made clear that there were “no known [IRA] activists or sympathizers … in Louisville’s territory.”

“While FBIHQ is unaware of any specific threats against the Queen, the possibility of threats against the British monarchy is ever-present from the Irish Republican Army,” a different internal FBI teletype, referring to the same visit, states.

Another memo with the marking “Domestic Terrorism Unit/Counter-Terrorism Section” detailed intelligence between the FBI and Secret Service relating to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game that Her Majesty planned to attend with President George H.W. Bush in 1991. It warned of planned protests at the stadium from “Irish groups” and raised concerns over the fact that one group “had reserved a large block of grand stand tickets.”

Restating an article from a “Philadelphia Irish newspaper,” the memo said “anti-British feelings are running high as a result of well publicized injustices” against the “Birmingham Six”—six Irishmen imprisoned with false convictions for pub bombings—“by the corrupt English judicial system.”

The document also noted “the recent rash of brutal murders of unarmed Irish nationalists in the six counties by Loyalist death squads.” Although it clarified that the article did not contain any explicit threats against Queen Elizabeth II, the memo claimed “the statements could be viewed as inflammatory.”

Despite the extra precautions taken by U.S. officials to guard the British royal, none of the dozens of files mentioned any arrests for Queen Elizabeth II-related violence or schemes committed in the name of the IRA.

However, the FBI acknowledged in a Tuesday letter to NBC News that “additional records … may exist” beyond what the agency has now publicly disclosed.

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