$85M Bomb Dousing Program Causing Controversy

Iraqi security forces are once again under intense international scrutiny, this time for using a strained budget to purchase over 1,500 ADE 651 Units at a cost of up to $60,000 a piece despite the fact that many say it can’t possibly work.  The ADE 651 is being sold as an electronic bomb sniffing device capable of detecting bombs from far away through a method many would recognize as almost identical to dousing, practiced for hundreds of years by “water witches” to find everything from water to gold.

The controversial product is being created by the London based company ATSC Ltd, and sold for a fortune to the inspector general for Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior, Aqeel al-Turaihi.  In 2008, 800 units were purchased for $32 Million, more than enough to buy over 500 bomb sniffing dogs, who have been proven to work.  Another transaction, somewhere in the neighborhood of $53 million was brokered to purchase additional units.  Iraqi officials, to protect themselves and their families were sold units varying in price, causing several to wonder why the severe difference in cost.  Reports of ill conceived marketing tactics are currently being investigated.

Many Iraqi security forces, who support the ADE 651 unit say it’s much quicker than using bomb sniffing dogs.  The way the device works, a security official holds out his arms at a 90 degree angle, and a small telescoping arm on the inside of the device will point toward the vehicle indicating the presence of “contraband.”  The ability to detect everything from Ivory, to Dead bodies, drugs, ammunition, bombs, guns, and truffles from up to several miles away, underground, or in airplanes.  The detector clips plastic labeled barcode cards to the machine, though no electrical charge is actually in the device as it doesn’t run on batteries.  So what does it run on?  The user of the device is supposed to walk around in place for a few minutes before each use to ‘charge’ himself up.  ATSC’s website, at the time of this report was blank with the words, “down for repairs..” in the upper left hand corner, and therefore further official statements on the ADE 651 unit are unavailable, though information had been collected earlier on the program’s advertisements which claim the device is run by electrostatic energy.  The claim that the device “Ignores All Known Concealment Methods. By programming the detection cards to specifically target a particular substance, through the proprietary process of electro-static matching of the ionic charge and structure of the substance,” is vexing because it confounds every single convention of our understanding of how electricity works.  Additionally, every single test to see if it works suggests that it is no better than random chance at discovering things.

This program’s fraudulent device should not be confused with the age old practice of dousing itself, which has been practiced for hundreds of years and arguably may have produced incredible results.  Dousing, however, is often reportedly an inherently psychic phenomena, not one that can be simply reproduced in a machine.  Dousing to find water was practiced by “water witches” hundreds of years ago as expanding settlements moved westward.  Even today the art is passed down from generation to generation.

So what is the ADE 651?  Is it merely a PR stunt to give the public a sense of security?  To inspire fear into the hearts of insurgents?  Regardless, if it’s simply a box with a telescoping coat hangar in it, they should most definitely not cost as much as $60,000 per unit.  In addition to that, ATSC is dealing with peoples’ lives.