The July of 2016, Iraq bombings which killed more than 200 people may find that they have been helped by a British man who is serving a 10-year jail sentence for fraud. With the war in Iraq raging, governments sought ways to reduce the bomb threat across the country. Starting in 2008, British-based ATSC began to build and sell the Advanced Detection Equipment (ADE)-651, an item they marketed as the ultimate bomb detector. There is just one problem, it was all a lie.
Starting in 2008, the ADE-651 was sold around the Middle East as part of a massive process to support the reduction of deaths from IEDs and suicide bombers. Their capabilities were listed as being able to detect explosives, bomb-making material, weapons, and drugs. The attached training manual even states that with the correct card in the system, it can “detect elephants, humans and $100 bills” What costs dollars to make, was being sold for thousands of dollars. The Iraqi government spent $85 million on them, spending more than $40,000 per device.
The ADE-651 is a simple two-piece system which includes a metal bar which moves different directions based on the minor, imperceptible muscular movements in the hand and arm known as the ideomotor effect. In other words, they are useless. It is a gag item that was marketed by another company as a way to find golf balls. When ATSC began to sell it as a bomb-detecting tool they cemented their role in a lie that would go on to cost significant lives in the future.
With airport security, vehicle checkpoints, and personnel searching areas employing the ADE-651, people believed that they were safe when in fact they were not. This allowed people to enter what was believed to be secure areas and threaten the lives of more people. Instead of spending thousands on this, governments could have hired more security personnel, conducted vehicle and personnel searches, or actually purchased real bomb-detecting equipment.
Not all of the blame for the use can be blamed on just ATSC. When Major General Jehad al-Jabiri, the commander of the bomb squad was shown documentation that proved the ADE-651 fake, he responded clearly that the tool was highly effective. Two years later he was arrested for taking bribes from ATSC.
Companies have every right to make a profit on their products or service. They should demonstrate due diligence to ensure that during this process, they are following the appropriate laws, ensuring they are being honest and truthful. In January of 2010, the head of ATSC was arrested for fraud and charged with three counts. He was sentenced to 10-years in prison. His actions to falsify these products and make claims about their capability has created a false sense of security amongst security guards and checkpoints around the Middle East. While the number of deaths as a direct result of the product cannot be accurately determined, the egregious lies are indicative of the very worst of the military procurement process.
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