'Magic Wand' probed in Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (UPI/Aude Guerrucci/Pool)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (UPI/Aude Guerrucci/Pool) | License Photo

LONDON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation into a British-made detection device after the government in London said it was ineffective and its manufacturer was arrested on charges of fraud.

Britain has banned the export of the hand-held machine, ADE651, following recent reports exposed by The Independent daily and the BBC challenged its effectiveness. The reports have already propelled Britain to pull the plug on exports related to the gadget.


Known as "the magic wand," the device uses a series of interchangeable credit card size paper cards said to be able to detect explosives such as C4 and TNT, as well as weapons.

It is manufactured by the British-based company ATSC and it was sold for between $16,500 and $60,000 a unit, according to British news reports. The gadget has widely used in Iraq as it is believed to have been sold in bulk to Iraqi security forces before Britain imposed the export ban.

The U.S. military has been particularly harsh in its reviews of the device, claiming that the "magic wand" contained only a chip to detect theft from stores.

The claim was based on a study released in June by U.S. military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis.


"The examination resulted in a determination that there was no possible means by which the ADE651 could detect explosives and therefore was determined to be totally ineffective and fraudulent," Maj. Joe Scrocca, a U.S. military spokesman was quoted saying to a string of American and British news outlets.

He explained that the U.S. military and private contractors assigned to guard Baghdad's international airport and main road, use "tried and tested" sniffer dogs to detect explosives instead.

"These devices have caused nothing but big problems in Iraq," said Hussein al-Falluji, member of Iraq's security and defense commission. "They have failed to detect bombs and thousands of Iraqis have been killed."

"It has proven… [that they] are a 100 percent failure."

Furor over the gadget erupted after a leading BBC program probed the allegations, taking the wand to a computer lab at Cambridge University for scrutinized tests. Experts there demonstrated beyond doubt that it could not detect any explosives.

The revelations surfaced as Iraqi officials alleged corruption in the tendering process for the procurement of the device.

Last week British police arrested ATSC Director Jim McCormick, 53, on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation. He was bailed pending further investigation.

Despite the scientific condemnation and the requested probe, Iraq's interior ministry was standing by its bulk purchase of around 3,000 devices, saying it had successfully detected 773 bombs.


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