The Reasoned Review

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Fraud and Punishment

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You may remember a couple months ago the New York Times reported some fishy business going on in Iraq. The US apparently sold thousands of “bomb sniffing wands” to the Iraqi government, promising that the device could reliably detect all explosives. We got them to spend millions on them altogether. Later it turned out the devices were “completely fraudulent”, work on the “principle of Ouija board”, what James Randi called a “totally worthless product”. The device was a scam.

It really wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for a little incident that occurred last October, when the deadliest explosion since 2007 rocked Baghdad. The suicide bombers had to pass through at least one checkpoint where the bomb sniffer failed to go off. Oops.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise that the bomb sniffer’s promotional material makes no sense at all – it claims the sniffer can detect “any drug or explosive”, without contact, through “concrete, lead, other metals, etc.” Oh, and it uses no batteries. How the hell is that supposed to work?

After defrauding the US and Iraqi governments for years and amassing millions of dollars besides, the “bomb detector” has finally been banned. The BBC has a pretty in-depth article.

Some highlights:

The Iraqi government has spent $85m on the ADE-651 and there are concerns that they have failed to stop bomb attacks that have killed hundreds of people.

The ban on the ADE-651 and other similar devices starts next week.

There is nothing to program in these cards. There is no memory. There is no microcontroller. There is no way any form of information can be stored
Dr Markus Kuhn

Sidney Alford, a leading explosives expert who advises all branches of the military, told Newsnight the sale of the ADE-651 was “absolutely immoral”.

“It could result in people being killed in the dozens, if not hundreds,” he said.

“These are the cheapest bit of electronics that you can get that look vaguely electronic and are sufficiently flat to fit inside a card,” Dr Kuhn told Newsnight.

The ADE-651 has been sold to a range of Middle Eastern countries and as far afield as Bangkok for eye-watering prices.

Iraq paid around $40,000 for each device.

No Western government uses them.

How cynical was this company? “Oh those stupid brown people are so uneducated they’ll buy anything!” Doesn’t the US have laws against war profiteering?

Written by pavanvan

January 24, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Posted in War

Tagged with , , , ,

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