TSA Hired Accused Camden Priest Without Thorough Background Check

Just who is searching through your bags and patting down passengers as they enter the airport terminal? While the TSA’s behavior has come under fire in recent years, a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer shows that a former Camden priest, one accused but never criminally convicted of molesting two school-age girls, was hired by the TSA 10 years ago without a full background check.

As the Inquirer points out, the former priest, Thomas Harkins, was hired in 2002 not long after he was removed from the Diocese of Camden. In the wake of 9/11, Harkins was brought on in a mass-hiring effort by the TSA and, over the past 10 years, has remained a security officer at the Philadelphia International Airport, even being promoted. However, Harkins has not frisked a passenger since 2004.

Nevertheless, the diocese revealed the allegations in 2003 that resulted in Harkins’ removal. Although the former priest was never prosecuted, the diocese settled for nearly $200,000 in 2002. The TSA, that took no action after this information was revealed, states that allegations are not significant grounds for dismissal. Harkins, as well, passed the initial job screening. However, as the newspaper points out, the TSA has not done any large-scale hiring since this point and now has far more stringent background checks, requiring positive recommendations from past employers.

While Harkins has remained with the TSA for 10 years, a recent lawsuit cast light on the allegations from a decade ago. Harkins’ alleged victims filed another lawsuit claiming the Diocese of Camden concealed Harkins’ previous treatment for pedophilia and moved him around the church system, including allowing him to work with children.

Harkins, even with the allegations, has seemingly done well working for the TSA and has lived under the radar for roughly the past 10 years. Nevertheless, if this recent lawsuit reveals that the diocese was, indeed, covering up a sordid past, should he be removed from his position?

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