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Saturday, 6 October 2012

Former priest hired by TSA to pat down passengers, three months after church kicked him out for 'molesting young girls'

....First he was fired for allegedly groping young girls, then hired to frisk them at an airport.

A disgraced former priest, defrocked from his New Jersey diocese over allegations of molestation in 2002, was three months later given a job as a TSA officer, it has been revealed.

Thomas Harkins was employed in a role where his duties would include doing pat downs on children, according to local news, after the agency failed to do a thorough background check and offered him a position at Philadelphia International Airport.

Thomas Harkins now works as a TSA officer, where his role involves patting down passengers

Had officials looked properly they would have discovered that the 65-year-old had been recently forced out of the priesthood after being accused of sexually abusing two grade-school girls.

But in the wake of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, the TSA said, an urgent need for agents meant that staff were being hired without being put under sufficient scrutiny.

50,000 workers were employed at the same time as Harkins, an unnamed TSA official told, many of whom went through without checks.

Hawkins was hired the following year, months after the alleged abuse scandal saw him ousted from the church, and proved so skilled at his new post that he even secured himself a promotion.

Although never prosecuted, after church-driven civil lawsuits were settled for $195,000, Harkins was barred from presenting himself as a priest, Camden diocese spokesperson Peter Feurherd told

He was also banned from attending church services.

A third young girl, aged 11, has since filed a lawsuit claiming that she, too, was one of Harkins' victims Cbs Philadelphia reported.

She claims to have been abused by the former priest 10-15 times in 1980 and 1981, including incidents which took place in his bedroom in the rectory.

Getting wind of Harkins' posting, in 2003 the church wrote to the TSA, informing officials of the allegations made against Harkins, but still he remained on the payroll.

The TSA took no actions because 'an allegation alone does not warrant dismissal or automatically disqualify applicants from employment with the TSA,' spokesperson Ann Davis told

Harkins is employed by the Philadelphia International Airport (pictured)

Harkins' current role at the airport involves overseeing screening operations for checked baggage and earns him a salary of $75,600-a-year.

He is one of 4,300 priests accused of molestation across the United States, according to, a nonprofit that tracks clergy abuse.

'They should know who they’re hiring,' Karen Polesir, told Cbs. She is a Philadelphia spokeswoman with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

'As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.'


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