A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files from 1970 to 1991 found suspected abusers regularly remained in the organization after officials were first presented with sexual misconduct allegations.
Predators moved from troop to troop because of clerical errors, computer glitches or the Scouts' failure to check the blacklist, known as the "perversion files," the newspaper said.
In at least 50 cases, the Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover they had re-entered the organization and were accused of molesting again.
In other cases, officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place, letting offenders stay in the program until new allegations came to light, the Times reported.
One scoutmaster was expelled in 1970 for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Indiana. After being convicted of the crime, he went on to join two troops in Illinois between 1971 and 1988. He later admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, was convicted of the sexual assault of a Scout in 1989 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, according to his file and court records.
In 1991, a Scout leader convicted of abusing a boy in Minnesota returned to his old troop shortly after getting out of jail.
In response to the Times' findings, the Scouts issued a statement that said in part:
"The Boy Scouts of America believes even a single instance of abuse is unacceptable, and we regret there have been times when the BSA's best efforts to protect children were insufficient. For that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims ... We are committed to the ongoing enhancement of our program, in line with evolving best practices for protecting youth."
The "perversion files" naming suspected child molesters include admissions of guilt as well as unproven allegations. They are used to vet applicants for volunteer and paid positions. The confidential documents have come to light in recent years in lawsuits by former Scouts, accusing the group of failing to detect abuses, exclude known pedophiles or turn in offenders to authorities.
Scouting officials say they've used the files to prevent hundreds of men who had been expelled for alleged sexual abuse from returning to the organization. The Boy Scouts have fought in court to keep the records from public view, saying confidentiality was needed to protect victims, witnesses and anyone falsely accused.
Many of the files will soon be made public as a result of an Oregon Supreme Court decision. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Oregonian and other media outlets petitioned for the release of 1,247 files from 1965 to 1984 that had been admitted as sealed evidence in a 2010 lawsuit.
The Times analyzed a set of files that were submitted in a California court case in 1992. Their contents vary but often include biographical information on the accused, witness statements, police reports, parent complaints, news clippings, and correspondence between local Boy Scout officials and national headquarters, according to the newspaper.