There’s a story that’s been around for years but if you live in the United States of America, like me, you’ve probably never heard it. It’s about a piece of equipment called the ADE 651 which Iraqi police and security forces spent about $80 million dollars purchasing. It’s design purpose is to detect bombs from a distance.

It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It’s never worked for anyone who tested it.

The FBI called its predecessor a fraud in 1999 and the U.S. Army declared it useless in 2009. Yet your tax dollars were still spent on it. The story made big news in England where the manufacturer was sentenced to ten years in prison. The owner paid Iraqis, and other, government officials bribes in order to purchase millions of dollars worth of the useless bomb detectors.

Fraud is a crime to begin with but when you give security forces in a bomb strewn country a device to detect explosives that doesn’t work, it means security forces wave their useless bomb detectors instead of searching for bombs. The result is predictable and vile.

I don’t put all the blame on the manufacturer of this useless thing. Iraqi government officials were bribed and put their own people in danger. Devising tests for such a device is, obviously, ridiculously easy. The fact that the thing didn’t work was not difficult to figure out and yet here we are tens of millions of our tax dollars later. Here we are who knows how many lives lost or ruined later. Here we are.

While such devices aren’t sold in the United States the concept is used all the time. Phony cancer cures, psychic readings, and any other number of scams are aimed at vulnerable and frightened people.

Is there an unethical depth to which someone, somewhere will not sink? It seems not.

What bothers me the most about this story is that this is the first I’ve heard about it. I follow the news pretty closely looking for stories to write about. James Randi exposed it back in 2008, there were apparently a few stories about it in U.S. media but why wasn’t this big news? You tell me.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn