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The Military Crime Technology

Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed For Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still In Use 152

HughPickens.com writes: Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept that although it remains in use at sensitive security areas throughout the world, the ADE 651 is a complete fraud and the ADE-651's manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives. There are no batteries in the unit and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. The device contains nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores and critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

The story of how the ADE 651 came into use involves the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars in a desperate effort to stop the attacks. Not only did the units not help, the device actually heightened the bloodshed by creating "a false sense of security" that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. A BBC investigation led to a subsequent export ban on the devices.

The device is once again back in the news as it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where a Russian airliner that took off from that city's airport was recently destroyed in a likely bombing attack by the militant Islamic State group. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would "continue to raise concerns" over the use of the ADE 651. James McCormick, the man responsible for the manufacture and sale of the ADE 651, received a 10-year prison sentence for his part in manufacture of the devices, sold to Iraq for $40,000 each. An employee of McCormick who later became a whistleblower said that after becoming concerned and questioning McCormick about the device, McCormick told him the ADE 651 "does exactly what it's designed to. It makes money."
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Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed For Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still In Use

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  • Security theater (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @08:37PM (#50990181) Homepage
    We've all said it before and we've been right all along.
    • Re:Security theater (Score:5, Informative)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @08:51PM (#50990305) Homepage Journal
      War Is a Racket https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] by retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley D. Butler :)
      • In Smedley Butlers time, this guy would have been called a "shoddy millionaire" A term which comes from the American Civil War and usually refers to someone selling shoddy items such as cardboard boots or recycled garments at an exorbitant price.
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I'm not positive but I think war profiteering is supposed to be illegal. It doesn't appear to be prosecuted in modern times, however. We've got a war on *everything* except stupidity (but I think there's a war on illiteracy). With that in mind, I'm now thinking there are a number of business executives who could do well by serving a little prison time. We should let out some non-violent drug offenders to make room.

    • Security is expensive. So maybe this device doesn't work, but at least it's inexpensive and saved someone some money. Stop thinking of the children and start thinking of the profits!

  • Some scumbags were selling it back in the 90's, calling it "the tracker" and claiming that it could detect drugs.

    -jcr

    • I'm no expert but I would expect some kind of tube to collect organic molecules. Do drugs give off electromagnetic waves?

      • I seem to remember some bs voodoo "explanation" of this device that pretty much claimed exactly that, that molecules of different substances all had their own unique em signature. But then, you'd think there would be circuitry and stuff to allow it to actually perform some function.
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @08:46PM (#50990267)

    At least they only got ripped off a few tens of millions of dollars with those fake scanners -- the USA got ripped off of $160M for body scanners that don't work [politico.com]

    • what, no jack-worthy nude body pictures the TSA could pass around?

    • The body scanners worked just fine. They made money for the people who made campaign contributions to the politicians who won and authorized their purchase.
      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        The body scanners worked just fine. They made money for the people who made campaign contributions to the politicians who won and authorized their purchase.

        Hey no fair, you took that quote from the article:

        McCormick told him the ADE 651 "does exactly what it's designed to. It makes money."

    • One slight difference - the fact that those body scanners are crap didn't contribute to anyone's death.

      • I don't know, how much excess radiation was absorbed by those bodies?

  • by easyTree ( 1042254 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @08:51PM (#50990315)

    Whereby McCormick gets to detect which one out of six bombs is not a bomb and is then forced to detonate it.

    As an aside, really!?, a ten year sentence? Either this whole story is total bullshit or someone has no concept of proportionality - doesn't taking the name of a media-multinational in vain result a longer sentence than this?

    • by fredgiblet ( 1063752 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @09:33PM (#50990595)
      Well it's not like he was doing something truly heinous like dealing weed...
    • Actually, I'd give him a choice - ten identical doors. He gets to use an unmodified ADE651 to pick which one to open. Nine out of ten have real (big) bombs mounted under the door frame. The remaining one has nothing. We give him an option at sentencing - he can either do life in prison, or pick a door and possibly go free. If his device works, that shouldn't be an issue at all.

      Should make great pay-per-view.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        The remaining one has nothing.

        Not even a floor, just the top of a mine shaft.
        However revenge fantasies are stupid and capital punishment requires too much messing about to avoid killing off the wrong people by mistake. Just try the fucker for his crimes and let him rot in jail - oh wait - already done - case closed.

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      Simpler approach: drop him in the middle of a minefield with his device, and wish him luck.

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      As an aside, really!?, a ten year sentence?

      10 years is the maximum sentence for fraud in the UK.

      • As an aside, really!?, a ten year sentence?

        10 years is the maximum sentence for fraud in the UK.

        Yes, but this is more like manslaughter.

    • Whereby McCormick gets to detect which one out of six bombs is not a bomb and is then forced to detonate it.

      As an aside, really!?, a ten year sentence? Either this whole story is total bullshit or someone has no concept of proportionality - doesn't taking the name of a media-multinational in vain result a longer sentence than this?

      Russian roulette would actually be safer as the weight of the bullet pulls the cylinder down on the spin.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

    We have something similar at work, it's called McAf~` &j # ' NO CARRIER

  • by Darkling-MHCN ( 222524 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @08:59PM (#50990391)

    A fraud which has contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of people should be punished with way more than 10 years.

  • Why wasn't this guy tried for multiple murders and then executed?
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @09:04PM (#50990417)

    It's clear as can be that I'm in the wrong business.

    Here I've been working and making an honest living all these years when I could have cobbled some 100% bullshit gadget together and sold enough of them to retire to my own tropical island and live in luxury for the rest of my life.

    Who says "crime doesn't pay"? Seems like it pays pretty damn well to me....

    • You don't see the blowjobs on high ranking suits this bastard had to perform to get the contract.

      The basic problem is deliberately broken contracting processes. He thought he could get away with this. Let him go, if he snitches out every crooked politician and purchasing officer. Then let him go, to the families of those that died with his gadget in their hands.

    • Here I've been working and making an honest living all these years when I could have cobbled some 100% bullshit gadget together and sold enough of them to retire to my own tropical island and live in luxury for the rest of my life.

      Apart from the bit where you spend 10 years in jail and have the police "pursue your wealth" under the Proceeds of Crime [wikipedia.org] act.

      • Apart from the bit where you spend 10 years in jail and have the police "pursue your wealth" under the Proceeds of Crime [wikipedia.org] act.

        Except that he'll probably be out in 2 to 4 years at the most, and unless he's a complete dolt he's put his money where it can't be found or seized. It's not that hard to do with a little preparation.

        Hell, for ten million dollars I'd happily serve a few years in prison knowing that I'd have a payday like that waiting for me when I got out. He'll probably do his time in some lame-ass minimum security facility, but even if he's in a Supermax prison he'll still come out ahead.

        The moral of the story is that "if

  • Seems like a "fake bomb" detector could be a valuable thing as long as it's put to the right use.
    • Like detecting fake bombs?
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      It seems Ahmed's clock is even more lucrative than those fake detectors.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      How about wrapping around someone's arm and saying it can find out if they are telling the truth? Oh wait - already done - by a comic book writer no less and endorsed by J. Edgar Hoover the king of kickbacks.
  • He needs a 100 million contract from Lockheed and then he can get them working units.
  • Meanwhile (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @10:05PM (#50990809)

    Meanwhile, in the United States our own "glorified dowsing rods" the TSA continues to rake in somewhere around $8 Billion dollars a year in direct costs alone (likely tens of billions when you factor in economic losses, increased road deaths and secondary costs) and is 95% ineffective at finding lighters and knives. And chances are no one responsible for that debacle is ever going to see a fine let alone a prison sentence.

    • Meanwhile, in the United States our own "glorified dowsing rods" the TSA continues to rake in somewhere around $8 Billion dollars a year in direct costs alone (likely tens of billions when you factor in economic losses, increased road deaths and secondary costs) and is 95% ineffective at finding lighters and knives. And chances are no one responsible for that debacle is ever going to see a fine let alone a prison sentence.

      The difference here being that the actual risk in the US is negligible whereas the risk where these bomb dowsers are being used is substantial.

      If you lived somewhere that there were real chances of a bomb being used you would want something that worked as well as possible, even if it was imperfect.

  • You must be holding it wrong.

    • You must be holding it wrong.

      He should have sold it as an iPhone app, then he'd have had plausible deniability.

  • At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars

    It cost tens of millions of dollars. It is worth tens of dollars as scrap. Sometimes, you don't get what you pay for.

  • Preventing all terrorist attacks is impossible. The most important thing for governments is to keep the public calm by giving the impression of security. A afraid and panicked populace is a bigger threat to those in power than the terrorists themselves. The false sense of security, ineffective but very visible security measures provide is in fact exactly what they want. Of course they could have saved millions of dollars by making consoles with blinking lights themselves.
  • You can be imprisoned for life for swindling people out of money, but contributing to the murder of thousands of people through fraud is only 10 years? The guy should have been given 3 boxes and an ADE 651. If he detects the bomb, he gets to live.

  • If the police wants to search something, the device can provide a reasonable suspicion. It's a circumvention device for civil rights. Much like drug sniffing dogs are reportedly misused.
  • Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed For Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still In Use

    Sounds like someone needs to buy a few of my fake bomb detector decectors.

  • The real problem is that apparently no scientists were involved in the decision to purchase these things.
    • The real problem is that apparently no scientists were involved in the decision to purchase these things.

      I imagine some palm-greasing of tame experts went on too. There surely must have been some sort of validation process, however sketchy?

  • I was out camping with a larger group. You know, all those friends of friends who say the darndest things. As topics bounced around I was reminded of this device and mentioned it, saying "it was basically an explosive finding dowsing rod" and one of the people pipes up
    "Well nothing wrong with that then, dowsing rods work just fine"

    What do you even say?

The following statement is not true. The previous statement is true.

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