Iraqis spent $80m on ADE651 bomb detectors described as useless
The Iraqi parliament is looking into the sale by a British company of “bomb detectors” costing millions of pounds amid claims that they do not work.
In the past two years Iraq’s security forces have spent more than $80 million (£47 million) on the detectors made by ATSC Ltd, based in Yeovil, Somerset.
The devices, which consist of little more than a telescopic radio aerial on a black plastic handle, were each sold for the price of a new car and are in use at army and police checkpoints across the bomb-ravaged country.
On October 25 suicide bombers drove through checkpoints that were equipped with the detectors and blew up three government ministries, killing 155 people.
The Iraqi parliament is scrutinising the purchase after an article appeared in The New York Times in which the American Major-General Richard J. Rowe Jr, who oversees Iraqi police training for the US, said: “I have no confidence that these work.”
Nadeem al-Jabiri, an Iraqi MP, said: “There is no official investigation going on but the security and defence committee in the parliament, headed by Hadi al-Amiri, is following up this matter as part of the parliament’s duty as a monitoring entity.”
It comes after it was confirmed that the Iraqi Government had spent $85 million (£50 million) on the devices, despite the manufacturer’s admission that they work on the same principle as a dowsing rod. Each detector bought by the Iraqi Government cost up to $60,000 (£35,000).
The American magician James Randi has condemned the device as a “blatant fraud” and offered $1 million if the manufacturer can prove that it works. It has declined. ATSC promotional material claims that its Advanced Detecting Equipment can find anything from explosives to human remains, including narcotics, ivory and truffles, at distances of up to 1km. Its current model, the ADE651, consists of a flimsy antenna fitted to a swivelling handgrip. When the antenna detects an explosive it supposedly rotates to point in its direction.
The devices have become an object of frustration and derision at Baghdad checkpoints where long queues grow even longer when a vehicle is stopped.
Ahmed al-Jemmali, a 26-year-old food merchant, said: “They are a failure because they react to things like perfume, medicine and metal. People in Iraq have shrapnel in their bodies because of explosions. We should have a device that detects only explosives and nothing else.”
Jim McCormick, the managing director of ATSC Ltd, a former Merseyside police officer, developed the device ten years ago despite having no scientific or technical background.
He insists that ATSC “only” received $12 million, and the price paid was inflated by commissions and training courses for the operators. He said: “We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.” Another reason for the doubts is that apart from the aerial the device contains no working parts at all.
The handheld unit is connected by coaxial cable to a plastic holder into which a plastic card is slotted.
The cards are supposedly pre- programmed with the electromagnetic “resonance” of the substance being detected. He says that the process involves a “proximity” device similar to the security tags used in shops.
In a direct challenge to “manufacturers, distributers and retailers”, Randi states: “ADE651 is a useless quack device which cannot perform any other function than separating naive persons from their money.
“It’s a fake, a scam, a swindle, and a blatant fraud. Prove me wrong and take the million dollars.”
No Western military unit has bought the ADE651. Mr McCormick says that he has sold them to “the Saudis, Indian police, a Belgian drug squad, a Hong Kong correctional facility and the Chittagong navy”.
He said: “The Saudis told us they used it to find the body of an American who had been beheaded and dumped in the desert. We asked for details but they said the information was classified.” The US Government says that during tests on a similar device it failed to detect a truck carrying a tonne of TNT when it drove up behind the operator.
Not everyone disputes that they work. Abu Murtetha, a Baghdad taxi driver, said, “In one case I saw they stopped a car. The detector showed something and when they looked under the car they spotted a bomb.”
I want to link the actual NYT article for the sheer crazy that is Iraqi Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri:
“Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,”
“I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them, I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world.”
'During an interview on Tuesday, General Jabiri challenged a Times reporter to test the ADE 651, placing a grenade and a machine pistol in plain view in his office. Despite two attempts, the wand did not detect the weapons when used by the reporter but did so each time it was used by a policeman. “You need more training,” the general said.'