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Bogus “magic wand” bomb detectors remain in use worldwide, causing millions of deaths

The ADE 651 is a small, handheld device with a plastic grip and swiveling antenna, designed by British company ATSC to find hidden explosives. Various governments and corporations have purchased the device for years as a safeguard against possible terrorist attacks. There’s just one very big problem, however — the device is a complete fraud.

According to The Intercept, “A 2010 BBC Newsnight investigation into the device determined that it was based on pseudoscience and amounted to nothing more than a divining rod. Investigators from BBC also found that the ADE-651’s manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives.”

Despite the controversy surrounding this apparently useless device, thousands, if not millions, of ADE 651s are still in use all over the world. In fact, the device once again made headlines recently after it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in Shark el-Sheikh, Egypt. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would “continue to raise concerns” over the use of the ADE 651.

Back in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, the Iraqi government bought more than 7,000 ADE 651 units in a desperate effort to stop the wave of deadly car bombings in the country. However, not only was the device useless, but it actually caused more deaths by giving Iraqi civilians “a false sense of security.” Although the ADE 651’s manufacturer claimed the device worked via “electrostatic ion attraction,” U.S. military officials in Iraq described it as essentially a “magic wand.”

The BBC investigation led to the subsequent export ban on the devices and the imprisonment of British businessman James McCormick, the man behind the manufacture and sale of the devices.

Unfortunately, however, despite being widely discredited as a fraudulent bomb-detecting device, ADE 651s remain in widespread use. Several versions of the device can even be bought online, under various names, such as Quadrotracker, HEDD1, Sniffex and GT200.

According to Dan Kaszeta, a research fellow at the International Institute for Non-Proliferation Studies and former U.S. Secret Service physical security specialist, “The ADE 651 doesn’t work, nor do any of the other devices.”

“The various pseudoscientific nonsense phrases and sentences used by the sellers to explain how these devices ‘work’ are intended to baffle customers, but there is in fact zero science behind any of them,” he added. “Any use of such a widely discredited device is dangerous. People are dead because of these devices.”


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