Thompson supports new airport scanners some describe as ‘intrusive’

And indeed, he has some cause for concern. There’s usually an outcry on Capitol Hill to do something right after an attack or attempted attack. But as time passes, interest can wane, especially if the potential solution is expensive and controversial. In this case, the imaging machines cost more than $100,000 a piece. And privacy groups say they’re not backing off their fight, that what they fear most is a knee-jerk reaction to the attempted bombing.

Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee and favors the new machines, says it’s not going to be easy finding a solution. It’s always a delicate balance between privacy and security, he says.

“We’ll just have to explain in more detail how this kind of equipment is necessary if we’re going to be confident that all is being done to protect the public,” he says.

Thompson admits it’s also likely that someday terrorists will find a way to evade the new machines, as they have other detection methods. That’s why most security experts say the country can’t rely on just one piece of technology, and that there has to be layers of security — things such as effective watch lists, canine teams, and monitoring airport crowds for suspicious behavior.

Clearly, there were multiple failures last week. Thompson says the challenge is finding the best combination of things that will actually work.