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

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