Monday, January 25, 2010

Remember the general and his "explosives divining rod"? (UPDATED)

You know, this guy? Some lady from BBC NewsNight went to the manufacturer's English country home and knocked on his door to call him out for selling pseudoscientific lucky charms to the Iraqis, but he didn't answer (shocker). Oh yeah, and she went to the Cambridge Computer Laboratory to find out what a third-grader could have told her: that a SIM card can't detect explosives.

Check out the video here.

h/t Faceless Bureaucrat at KOW.

UPDATE: the New York Times is reporting that the very same dude who got door-knocked has been arrested for fraud. (Maybe that's why he didn't answer.) The story has a lot more detail about the financial arrangement between the manufacturer and the Iraqi government, lending credence to my initial speculation that there's some sort of corruption involved.

“Tests have shown that the technology used in the ADE 651 and similar devices is not suitable for bomb detection,” the [British Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills] said. “We acted urgently to put in place export restrictions which will come into force next week.” The statement said the department could ban export to those countries because British troops there could be put at risk by the device’s use. ATSC claims to have sold the device to 20 countries, all in the developing world.

The Supreme Board of Audit in Iraq announced it would investigate the procurement of the ADE 651, according to the board’s leader, Abdul Basit Turki. The investigation will focus on officials who previously assured auditors the device was technically sound, he said.

Maj. Gen. Jihad al-Jabiri, who is in charge of procuring the devices for the Ministry
of Interior, could not be reached for comment.

In Baghdad on Saturday, the devices were still very much in use. “I didn’t believe in this device in the first place,” said a police officer at a checkpoint in central Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “I was forced to use it by my superiors and I am still forced to do so.”

Another checkpoint officer said he blamed corrupt officials for bringing the ADE 651 in. “Our government is to be blamed for all the thousands of innocent spirits who were lost since these devices have been used in Iraq,” he said.

An associate of ATSC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the devices were manufactured at a cost of $250 each by suppliers in Britain and Romania. “Everyone at ATSC knew there was nothing inside the ADE 651,” he said.

The Iraqi government, according to its auditors, paid $40,000 to $60,000 for each device, although it determined that ATSC was marketing the device for $16,000. The additional money was said to have been for training, spare parts and commissions.

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