Surprisingly, a local mainstream media outlet in Philadelphia has conducted an investigation uncovering a quite disturbing history behind a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supervisor named Thomas Harkins.
CBS 3 of Philadelphia’s so-called “I-Team” has uncovered that Harkins – who now holds what they call “a sensitive security post at Philadelphia International Airport” – was a Catholic priest at churches in South New Jersey until 2002.
The Diocese of Camden removed him from the position after they determined that he sexually abused two young girls and a new lawsuit filed by a third woman alleges that she was also victimized by Harkins.
Harkins now supervises the security checkpoint between Terminals D and E in Philadelphia International Airport through which many individuals pass, including children.
When the local CBS affiliate approached Harkins after his shift at the airport about the latest suit, he simply replied, “I have nothing to say.”
This new lawsuit, which was filed against the Diocese of Camden in federal court, accuses Harkins of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl a whopping 10 to 15 times from 1980 to 1981.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victim of the alleged abuse and states that the abuse took place while Harkins was serving as a priest at Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, New Jersey.
According to the suit, one sexual assault even took place in Harkins’ private bedroom at the rectory.
When Harkins was asked if the traveling public should be worried, he replied, “No, they shouldn’t be,” without explaining why any parent would be comfortable with an accused child molester potentially dealing with their children.
CBS 3’s Ben Simmoneau pressed Harkins, asking, “The public should not be worried with you in a position like this despite your past?”
“I have nothing to say,” Harkins said once again, obviously avoiding the question.
Harkins then walked into a restricted area thanks to his TSA credentials, preventing the reporters from following him.
“They should know who they’re hiring,” Karen Polesir, a Philadelphia spokesperson for the Survival Network of those Abused by Priests, said.
Given the sensitive nature of the position – at least if you believe there is a real terrorist threat facing the people of the United States – one would expect that the TSA would conduct a thorough background check and be well aware of the past of their employees.
How would they miss something as massive as multiple allegations of sexual abuse, against children no less?
“As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that,” Polesir added.
Hilariously, the TSA attempted to explain away hiring an alleged pedophile by stating that Harkins’ title is “Transportation Security Manager, Baggage,” which means he mostly deals with luggage, not passenger screening.
Obviously the key word here is mostly.
“Sure, that’s his title. That doesn’t mean that’s where he stays, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fill other roles when necessary,” Polesir pointed out.
Indeed, such a conclusion seems quite obvious and logical.
We must also question the way in which Harkins obtained his Transportation Security Manger position. According to the frequently asked questions page on the TSA’s career section of their official site, there is a significant likelihood that Harkins did interact with passengers.
“Is it necessary to serve as a supervisor to become a Transportation Security Manager (TSM)?
No. There are two possible career tracks through which employees may move that lead to the TSM position. One track is through management and the other through technical programs such as the Bomb Appraisal Officer and Screening of Passengers by Observational Techniques Programs or a combination of these two tracks. Experience leading or managing people and/or programs is helpful if an employee is interested in management opportunities.”
Obviously he could have obtained the position either through management or the technical programs, but either way, an alleged pedophile was either leading other TSA employees or he was interacting with passengers.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want such a character in any such position, regardless of the security implications.
According to the TSA, while they do put all employees through a criminal background check before they are hired, the fact that Harkins’ cases date back to 2002 prevented the cases from coming up.
A spokesperson stated that the Camden Diocese settled the first two sexual abuse lawsuits with Harkins’ accusers but has not reviewed the newest lawsuit.
I find this lapse, if you can call it that, to be wholly inexcusable, embarrassing and thoroughly shameful. How the TSA continues to be legitimate in the eyes of any American is completely beyond me at this point.
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