TSA Hires Priest Accused of Molesting Girls to Do Patdowns on Kids


tsa A background check is pretty standard for new employees at companies these days. I thought that was especially true of the Transportation and Security Administration, but I was wrong. Turns out the TSA hired a defrocked priest who had been accused of molesting young girls before completing the check. Among his duties when he started: patdowns of children at the Philadelphia International Airport.

Outrageous, right? It's unbelievable that this kind of oversight happens within an organization that will go as far as to make parents remove an infant's Robeez before being carried through the metal detector. But wait! The story actually gets worse.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the agency hired 65-year-old Thomas Harkins, who had been forced to leave the priesthood after he was accused of sexually abusing two school girls. During a period of mass hiring after 9/11, they needed agents so badly they didn't bother to do immediate background checks on each one.

Shockingly, they didin't fire the guy after his background was revealed. The church had apparently informed the TSA of the allegations in 2003, but he was already on the job by then. According to a spokesperson:

[A]n allegation alone does not warrant dismissal or automatically disqualify applicants from employment with the TSA.

During his tenure, Harkins has been promoted and now oversees screening operations for checked bags. He has not patted down passengers since 2004, according to the TSA. Which is somewhat a relief -- I guess. Though, he probably shouldn't have had the job in the first place. He is now one of 4,300 priests identified on the website bishop-accountability.org, which tracks clergy abuse.

The fact that they hired a suspected child molester is one thing, but it's especially troubling that they didn't thoroughly check out the people who were supposed to be protecting us from terrorists after the deadliest attack in American history. I mean, come on TSA! Today, they say they no longer do mass hirings and every employee is thoroughly background checked. But I wonder, how many other sketchy people may they have slipped through the cracks? It's frightening, isn't it?

Can you believe they hired this guy?


Image via Grant Wickes/Flickr

airplanes, terrorism, travel, sex crime


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Flori... Floridamom96

Oh, you sooo miss the point. The fact that government pats anyone down without being arrested for a crime is what's outrageous.

dirti... dirtiekittie

it's good to see that he went from feeling up little girls for fun to doing it for fun AND profit. :/

actually, the linked article says he was no longer doing patdowns as of 2004, but seriously - that means he worked for a couple of years doing it before something changed. but it's ok! because the TSA said that they now do bg checks on all their employees! nevermind the few thousand that slipped through the cracks and are still on payroll...

and these are the people who determine who is safe to fly or not. ain't that some irony.  

Nolanzo Nolanzo

This makes me want to vomit. I don't have a daughter, but I'm pretty sure id probably refuse a male agent to pat her down. That's just disturbing to me... and obviously they've now proven that their hiring process cannot be trusted.

wamom223 wamom223

I agree floridamom.  There are private companies working in select airports that are getting better results with out going to the lengths the TSA does.

count... countrygirl670

Wait- so now my kid's can't avoid molesting priests by just staying out of church?  

bills... billsfan1104

Countrygirl, do you keep your kids out of school too? There are child molesters there too.

Lauren Mausshardt

There are child molesters everywhere, but I could have sworn they had to use a female to pat down female children?? I haven't been patted down since I was under 18 but the few times it did happen they always got a female...not that woman can't molest little girls, but I felt better about it. My mom may have insisted on a female though I don't remember.

1-7 of 7 comments