Obscene – selling useless bomb detectors to Iraq

Today is a bad day for anyone who likes the idea of  integrity and common decency.   Take a look at this news story from the BBC about the ADE-651 bomb detector.  This baby sells for up to $40,000 a pot and has been sold extensively to Iraq.  So extensively, in fact, that the Iraqi authorities bought $85 million dollars worth of them.  So, what do you get for your money?  Some sort of hand-portable spectrometer that can detect explosives residues, perhaps something like the GSS 3000? Or maybe an EVD3200, particular noted for it’s ability to detect the ‘popular’ terrorist explosive TATP?

Not really.  You get a gadget described here.  Basically something that supposedly works according to no widely accepted scientific principles from a company who were, at the time of writing, under official investigation.

The method by which these devices are supposed to work is akin to dowsing; now, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve seen dowsing work and as a technique for certain things it can be pretty effective.  But to be honest, this doesn’t appear to be one of them.  that’s not just my viewpoint – whether the ‘new age’ science that is reportedly behind this box of tricks is effective or not I have no idea, but when they can’t detect a bag of fireworks a few feet away, then the detector certainly seems to have some major failings.

So….the Iraqi authorities pay $56,000 a shot for something that doesn’t work, that uses techniques that the FBI warned didn’t work a decade ago.   These gadgets are a widely used tool at roadside checkpoints in Iraq, and one has to wonder how many bombs they have let through.  The buck for this sort of thing is a pretty enormous one; apart from the company selling the device, there are the people who’ve requisitioned it, the people who OK’d the purchase, right up the line.  Is it possible that no one, anywhere, in this process actually got one of these gadgets out of it’s box and tested it by the simple expedient of having a couple of squaddies who’d been handling explosives walk past the sensor? 

If that didn’t happen, then it’s an abysmal dereliction of duty.  If these tests were done and the device passed, then we need to ask about the tests that were carried out; if the tests were apparently passed when other tests have not suggested that the device is effective then it looks like incompetence of an incredible level.  If the tests were failed and the results ignored, then it’s gross negligence or fraud.

The problem is that people DIE when these gadgets don’t work.  It’s believed that the vehicles involved in some of the recent car bombings in Iraq have gone through checkpoints that may have relied on these devices to check equipment.  A non-working security device is the worst of all possible worlds; it doesn’t work but if it doesn’t indicate it’s not working then it gives false security.  The reported failures of this gadget ‘in the field’ where many people know it’s as much use as a chocolate fireguard have been blamed on the operators – talk about adding insult to injury.

How many explosives sniffing dogs could be provided with this money?  Or real explosives detectors?  Somewhere along the way someone is making some serious money flogging something that couldn’t cost much more than a hundred quid a time to make for $56,000.

And I hope that if found, that someone rots in Hell.

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