It won’t work unless the operator is relaxed

Another entry for the ‘I thought I was beyond being shocked’ category – a very expensive ‘bomb detector’ that has nothing in it but ‘the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores.’ Iraq has been paying $40,000 apiece for them – and using them to detect bombs – and they can’t detect bombs because all they have is ‘the cheapest bit of electronics that you can get that look vaguely electronic and are sufficiently flat to fit inside a card.’

Well that’s a nice way to make money!

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 device is sold by Jim McCormick, based at offices in rural Somerset, UK. The ADE-651 detector has never been shown to work in a scientific test. There are no batteries and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. Critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod. Mr McCormick told the BBC in a previous interview that “the theory behind dowsing and the theory behind how we actually detect explosives is very similar”.

Oh is it! So what was it doing on the market then?

He says that the key to it is the black box connected to the aerial into which you put “programmed substance detection cards”, each “designed to tune into” the frequency of a particular explosive or other substance named on the card. Newsnight obtained a set of cards for the ADE-651 and took them to Cambridge University’s Computer Laboratory where Dr Markus Kuhn dissected a card supposed to detect TNT. It contained nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores. Dr Kuhn said it was “impossible” that it could detect anything at all and that the card had “absolutely nothing to do with the detection of TNT. 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,” he added. The tags which are supposed to be the heart of such an expensive system cost around two to three pence. “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.

Dear god. How do people live with themselves?!

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