TSA hired priest accused of molesting girls to do pat downs
The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) didn’t bother to do a background check on a priest who had been defrocked for molesting girls before they gave him a job, which included doing pat downs on children at Philadelphia International Airport.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday reported that the agency confirmed that 65-year-old Thomas Harkins had been forced out of the priesthood over allegations that he had sexually abused two grade-school girls.
But the TSA took no actions because “[a]n allegation alone does not warrant dismissal or automatically disqualify applicants from employment with the TSA,” spokesperson Ann Davis told the Inquirer.
The TSA said that they had hired Harkins without a background check because of an urgent need for agents after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Today, the agency no longer conducts mass hirings and a background check is required for every employee.
A spokesperson for the Camden diocese said that Harkins had been barred from presenting himself as a priest or attending church services, according to Camden diocese spokesperson Peter Feuerherd.
The church ended up settling civil lawsuits for $195,000, but the former priest was never prosecuted. A letter obtained by the Inquirer showed that the church had on Sept. 29, 2003 notified the TSA that Harkins had been accused of molesting two girls.
Harkins has since been promoted from the TSA job that required him to pat down children and now oversees screening operations for checked baggage.