Looking Good!

On the front page of today’s Times is a story I’m surprised I hadn’t heard about before. It seems that the Iraqi security forces are using a bomb-detection gizmo that seems, quite obviously, to be nothing more than an expensive, tarted-up divining rod.

The gadget in question is called the ADE 651, and the Iraqis have bought at least 1,500 of them, despite their costing tens of thousands of dollars apiece. They are made by a British outfit called ATSC (currently their site says “Website under repair”), which so far has only managed to sell them to “developing nations” — which ought to tell you something right there.

We read:

Last year, the James Randi Educational Foundation, an organization seeking to debunk claims of the paranormal, publicly offered ATSC $1 million if it could pass a scientific test proving that the device could detect explosives. Mr. Randi said no one from the company had taken up the offer.

ATSC’s promotional material claims that its device can find guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies and even contraband ivory at distances up to a kilometer, underground, through walls, underwater or even from airplanes three miles high. The device works on “electrostatic magnetic ion attraction,” ATSC says.

To detect materials, the operator puts an array of plastic-coated cardboard cards with bar codes into a holder connected to the wand by a cable. “It would be laughable,” Colonel Bidlack said, “except someone down the street from you is counting on this to keep bombs off the streets.”

Proponents of the wand often argue that errors stem from the human operator, who they say must be rested, with a steady pulse and body temperature, before using the device.

Then the operator must walk in place a few moments to “charge” the device, since it has no battery or other power source, and walk with the wand at right angles to the body. If there are explosives or drugs to the operator’s left, the wand is supposed to swivel to the operator’s left and point at them.

If, as often happens, no explosives or weapons are found, the police may blame a false positive on other things found in the car, like perfume, air fresheners or gold fillings in the driver’s teeth.

On Tuesday, a guard and a driver for The New York Times, both licensed to carry firearms, drove through nine police checkpoints that were using the device. None of the checkpoint guards detected the two AK-47 rifles and ammunition inside the vehicle.

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.

Wow. Story here.

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  1. JK says

    Malcolm, you might want to tell the guys at:


    because the guys from


    got their travel itinerary this morning


    surely the Administration can get through to the website.

    Posted November 4, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink
  2. JK says


    (An ADE Training video).

    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink