Report: Philly TSA Staffer Was Removed from Ministry over Sex Abuse Allegations

Bothered about the prospect of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials patting you or your kids down? Ever go through security at Philadelphia International Airport?

If the answers to both of those questions are "yes," you might want to stop reading this post now. CBS Philadelphia reports that a former priest who was removed from ministry after it was "found he sexually abused two young girls," and who is reportedly the subject of a third lawsuit filed in federal court, is working the security checkpoint between Terminals D and E as a "Transportation Security Manager, Baggage."

The CBS 3 I-Team has learned that a Catholic priest who was removed from the ministry over sex abuse allegations now holds a sensitive security post at Philadelphia International Airport.

The security checkpoint between Terminals D and E is a busy place where thousands of people – including lots of kids – pass through every day. But you might not believe who the I-Team observed working as a TSA supervisor at that checkpoint this week: Thomas Harkins.

Until 2002, Harkins was a Catholic priest working at churches across South Jersey. But the Diocese of Camden removed him from ministry because it found he sexually abused two young girls. Now, in a new lawsuit, a third woman is claiming she also is one of Harkins’ victims.

The TSA conducts background checks on prospective employees, but criminal charges in the cases were apparently never filed (the CBS Philadelphia report does not make clear whether, therefore, the TSA was aware of the alleged sex abuse before now).

CBS Philadelphia writes that the TSA confirmed that the employee in question "deals mostly with luggage, not passengers."

That "mostly" appears to be little consolation to a spokesperson for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who expressed outrage over the staffing decision. “They should know who they’re hiring,” CBS quotes SNAP spokeswoman Karen Polesir saying. “As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.”

Were airport security restricted to passing through a metal detector, having a hand swab conducted, or deploying explosives-detecting dogs, the outrage over this particular hiring might not be so evident. But in the era of frequent pat-downs for everyone from toddlers to grandmothers, this is a story bound to cause concern.


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