Divining sticks that consist essentially of an antenna not even attached to a radio (which might make it slihgtly useful for listening to music and stuff), and costing between 16 and 60 THOUSAND DOLLARS each, are being used as the main technology for detecting bombs at check points staffed by the Iraqi army.

The US Army has told the Iraqi army that this does not work, but they don’t care.

“I don’t believe there’s a magic wand that can detect explosives,” said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., who oversees Iraqi police training for the American military. “If there was, we would all be using it. I have no confidence that these work.”

The recent really big bombing (with 155 killed) involved a truck bomb that got past at least one check point that used the ADE 651 (that’s the name of the fancy Ouija board thingie).

The Iraqis seem to really think it works.

“Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,” said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for Combating Explosives.

These devices are made by ATSC, located in the UK. Their total take on this deal is going to be over 80 million dollars. Some of the Iraqis are kinda pissed off because some of the magic wands have been purchaced for $60,000 while equally effective magic wands were available for cloer to $18,000.

The James Randi foundation has issued a specific challenge regarding these devices: Prove they work, you get a million bucks. The challenge:

This Foundation will give you our million-dollar prize upon the successful testing of the ADE651® device. Such test can be performed by anyone, anywhere, under your conditions, by you or by any appointed person or persons, in direct satisfaction of any or all of the provisions laid out above by you.

So far, no payoff. Not even an attempt to collect.

Mean while, security in Iraq, where truck and car bombs have become a major tool used to carry out acts of carnage, is based primarily on the magic wand.

American Army: Leave now. Your work here is done.

Here’s the story at the NYT

Thanks Virgil Samms for the tip.


  1. #1 jj
    November 6, 2009

    I was waiting to see if this showed up here… Gizmodo beat ya by a couple of days 🙂

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 6, 2009

    My skepticism in not in a hurry.

  3. #3 wfr
    November 6, 2009

    Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri should take a day off and mingle with the troops. I suggest he spend a day demonstrating the bomb detector in actual field conditions.

  4. #4 krek
    November 6, 2009

    Oh My flying spaghetti monster! They’ve already handed over $6 million cash for these things! They’re actually going through with this…. Who cares about JREF’s million When there’s that kind of money to be had?

    This has got to be a real record, this will go down in history!

  5. #5 NewEnglandBob
    November 6, 2009

    I read about this the other day. People are risking lives for this foolery. un-fucking-believable!

  6. #6 David Canzi
    November 6, 2009

    The more implausible the “bomb detector” is, the more likely a suicide bomber will be to go to his planned destination, and not blow himself up at the checkpoint.

  7. #7 Lilian Nattel
    November 6, 2009

    But wait! I’ll make them for $10,000 apiece.

  8. #8 a lurker
    November 6, 2009

    “The more implausible the “bomb detector” is, the more likely a suicide bomber will be to go to his planned destination, and not blow himself up at the checkpoint.”

    Now we know why the guys at the checkpoint swear by it. ;-(

    Bob Park has pointed out that our own military fell for the exact same scam in the 1990s.

  9. #9 Mister Chelsea's Dad
    November 7, 2009

    Wow. Would this be “homeopathic security”?

    In a strange sense, it probably does reduce the number of bombings. But only in that most potential bombers are dumb enough to believe something like this would catch them.

    The fact that a bomb got past a checkpoint using one, proves that not all of the bombers are that easily fooled.

    For more history on devices like this, search for “quadro tracker”.

  10. #10 Virgil Samms
    November 7, 2009

    During an interview on Tuesday, General Jabiri challenged a Times reporter to test the ADE 651, placing a grenade and a machine pistol in plain view in his office.

    This moron doesn’t even understand the concept of a controlled, blinded test.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    November 7, 2009

    David Canzi: Good point, that may explain a lot.

    Yes, the US military has had similar devices. I don’t know about the 1990s, but the old needle on a string device was used (by people I know, so no, I don’t have a “link” to prove this is true) to detect tunnels and other things.

    I worked with a bunch of vets some of whom were familiar with this method, and we used that plus the double bent rod divining method (very common for water) and a metal detector to find objects an an archaeological site. All methods worked to find objects on this very very rich site, as did random digging and systematic digging. In the end, we chose systematic digging.

    I also worked with a geomancer who used the double bent rods to locate energy fields from ancient times that penetrated the earth. That worked very well, but only he could see them.

  12. #12 Techowiz
    November 8, 2009

    Iraq are not the only ones buying into this scam, The Saudi’s, The Hong Kong Police, The Lebanese Army/Police, The Kenyan Police, The Niger Army have all paid very nicely for the benefit of being scammed.

  13. #13 dave
    November 14, 2009

    the scam is probably for the benefit of the generals buying these useless sticks too. im sure that the idiot Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri makes a lot of money in back-handers from the company making them. He has the blood of his own people oin his hands as much as the company making them…

  14. #14 Techowiz
    November 30, 2009

    Hi Greg,
    It would seem that I have been a bit harsh in my criticism of the scam device The ADE651, because in an effort to convince evryone it works there is going to be an upgrade. Yes, the new model with be fitted with………..wait for it……….Flashing lights. Check out the story at:



  15. #15 Techowiz
    January 22, 2010


    The scammer-in-chief Jim McCormick of ADE651 fame has been arrested for fraud, see the link for the story:



  16. #16 Techowiz
    January 22, 2010

    Great news the scammer-in-chief has been arrested over the fraud that is the ADE651, see the link for details: