Thomas Harkin, Former Catholic Priest Accused Of Sex Abuse, Now Works For TSA

A Catholic priest who was defrocked in 2002 over sex abuse allegations has a new job...with the TSA.

CBS Philadelphia reports that Thomas Harkin, who worked at churches across southern New Jersey before being removed by the Diocese of Camden because he was found to have abused young girls, now has a job as a "Transportation Security Manager, Baggage" with the TSA at Philadelphia International Airport.

The station saw Harkin working as a checkpoint supervisor between terminals D and E at the airport even as a new lawsuit has been filled against him for sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl.

Karen Polesir, a spokeswoman with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the station, "They should know who they're hiring...As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that."

Yet a TSA official told the station that his title reflects that he deals mostly with luggage, not people. When asked by CBS Philadelphia if the flying public should be wary of his appointment, Harkin said, "No, they shouldn't be."

Beginning in October 2007, the TSA "began requiring airports to receive a favorable security threat assessment result for all employees prior to issuing airport badges," according to its website. The airport is in charge of doing background investigations, including checking fingerprints and checking for any of 28 "disqualifying crimes," according its site. The 28 crimes are not listed, so it's unclear if sexual abuse is one of them.

In Harkin's case, the TSA said that because the allegations against him were so old, criminal charges were not filed. A spokesman with the Diocese of Camden said that two previous lawsuits against Harkin were settled.

In April, it was found that the TSA gave Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport (the world's busiest) license to hire "any workers needed" for the job due to a backlog of background checks. At the time, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun told Atlanta's Channel 2, “You can’t put unsecured people or people that you haven’t checked in a secured environment."

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