The Full Wiki

ADE 651: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An Iraqi soldier at a checkpoint using an ADE 651 or similar device

The ADE 651, produced by ATSC (UK), is advertised as a hand-held "remote portable substance detector" that is claimed to be able to detect from a distance the presence and location of various explosives, drugs, and other substances. The device has been sold to a number of countries in the Middle and Far East, including Iraq, for as much as $60,000 per unit. The Iraqi government is said to have spent £52m ($85m) on the devices. However, investigations by the BBC and other organisations have reported that the device is little more than a "glorified dowsing rod" with no ability to perform its claimed functions. The export of the device to Iraq and Afghanistan has been banned by the British Government, and the managing director of the company which manufactures it, 53-year-old Jim McCormick, has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.[1] The use of the device by Iraqi and Pakistani security forces has become a major international controversy. The virtually identical GT200 and Alpha 6 devices, which are widely used in Thailand, have also come under scrutiny in the wake of the revelations about the ADE 651.[2]


Description and background

The ADE 651 consists of a swivelling antenna mounted via a hinge to a plastic handgrip. It requires no battery or other power source, its manufacturer stating that it is powered solely by the user's static electricity. To use the device, the operator must walk for a few moments to "charge" it before holding it at right angles to the body. After a substance-specific "programmed substance detection card" is inserted, the device is supposed to swivel in the user's hand to point its antenna in the direction of the target substance. The cards are claimed to be designed to "tune into" the frequency of a particular explosive or other substance named on the card.[3] According to Husam Muhammad, an Iraqi police officer and user of the ADE 651, using the device properly is more of an art than a science: "If we are tense, the device doesn't work correctly. I start slow, and relax my body, and I try to clear my mind."[4]

The promotional material issued by ATSC claims that the ADE 651 can detect items including guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies, contraband ivory and bank notes at distances of up to 1 kilometre (0.62 mi), underground, through walls, underwater or even from airplanes at an altitude of up to 5 kilometres (3.1 mi). The device is said to work on the principle of "electrostatic magnetic ion attraction".[5] According to the promotional material, "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), the ADE651® will “by-pass” all known attempts to conceal the target substance. It has been shown to penetrate lead, other metals, concrete, and other matter (including hiding in the body) used in attempts to block the attraction."[6] Prosec, a Lebanese reseller of the ADE 651, claims on its website that the device "works on nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR) or nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)."[7]

The device is made by ATSC (UK) Ltd, a company based in a former dairy in Sparkford, Somerset.[8] It has been distributed by a number of companies including Cumberland Industries UK, a company based in Kettering, Northamptonshire,[9] and Prosec of Baabda, Lebanon.[7] It was developed by Jim McCormick, the company's managing director, a former Merseyside Police officer whom The Times reports has "no scientific or technical background."[10] McCormick told the BBC that "the theory behind dowsing and the theory behind how we actually detect explosives is very similar."[11] According to an associate of ATSC, the devices were manufactured at a cost of £150 ($250) each by suppliers in Britain and Romania. The associate told The New York Times: "Everyone at ATSC knew there was nothing inside the ADE 651."[12]

ATSC (UK) Ltd was established as a private limited company (registered company 03407495) on 23 July 1997 under the name "Broadcasting and Telecommunications Limited"; it changed to its present name on 27 March 2008. Its accounts at Companies House record a turnover of £1.78 million for the year to 31 July 2008, with a gross profit of £1.35 million. Its sole shareholder is its owner, Jim McCormick. A sister company at the same location, ATSC Exports Ltd (registered company 06797101), was established on 21 January 2009, also as a private limited company. It has not filed any accounts as of January 2010.[13]


The ADE 651 is widely used by the Iraqi Police Service and the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi Interior Ministry bought 800 of the devices in 2008 for £20m ($32m) and a further 700 in 2009 for £32m ($53m), in no-bid contracts with ATSC. The Iraqi government paid up to £37,000 ($60,000) for the devices despite the purchase price being put at around £11,500 ($18,500).[5] The Iraqi Army's Baghdad Operations Command announced in November 2009 that it had purchased another hundred of the devices. Jim McCormick of ATSC has said that the devices were sold for £5,000 ($8,000) each, with the balance of the cost going on training and middlemen.[8] According to CBS News, the training included instructions to Iraqi users to "shuffle their feet to generate static electricity to make the things work."[14]

The ADE 651 has been used at hundreds of police and military checkpoints across Iraq, often replacing physical inspections of vehicles. It is not used by the US military.[5] Major-General Jehad al-Jabiri of the Interior Ministry's General Directorate for Combating Explosives has defended the device: "Whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is detecting bombs. I don't care what they say. I know more about bombs than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world."[1] He told a press conference that the ADE 651 has detected "hundreds of roadside bombs and car bombs" and any deficiencies were due to defective training in the device's use.[15] The Iraqi Interior Minister, Jawad al-Bulani, also defended the device, telling Al Iraqiya television that the ADE 651 had "managed to prevent and detect more than 16,000 bombs that would be a threat to people's life and more than 733 car bombs were defused." He said: "Iraq is considered as a market area for many companies producing such devices ... and there are other rival companies trying to belittle the efficiency of these instruments the government is buying".[16]

In Mexico the Government of Colima bought one of these devices, paying more than 60,000 USD.[17] Also, as can be seen in the photography accompanying an article about GT200 published in newspaper, where can be seen a Mexican soldier using an ADE 651, it's possible that the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) also bought some units.[18]

According to a promotional website for the ADE 651, the device is also used by the Lebanese Army, the Chinese Police, the Royal Thai Police and the Interior Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraqi Kurdistan. The website claims that the Jordanian government requires hotels to employ ADE 651 devices to scan vehicles entering underground car parks.[19] ATSC's Jim McCormick says that 20 countries have acquired the device, with purchasers including "the Saudis, Indian police, a Belgian drug squad, a Hong Kong correctional facility and the Chittagong navy."[10] The police in the Belgian municipal region of Geel-Laakdal-Meerhout use the device to detect drugs.[20] Pakistan's Airport Security Force also uses the ADE 651 as a bomb detector at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.[21]


The use of the ADE 651 has prompted strong criticism and eventually led to a ban on the device's export from the UK to Iraq and Afghanistan and a criminal investigation of its manufacturer. The Iraqi security forces' reliance on the device was highlighted by a New York Times investigation in November 2009, which reported that United States military and technical experts believed the device was useless. US Army Major-General Richard Rowe told the newspaper that "there's [no] magic wand that can detect explosives. If there was, we would all be using it. I have no confidence that these work." The Sandia National Laboratories had carried out testing of several similar devices but found that "none have ever performed better than random chance." Retired US Air Force Colonel Hal Bidlack, a former national security aide in the Clinton and Bush administrations, condemned the device as "laughable, except someone down the street from you is counting on this to keep bombs off the streets." An Iraqi guard and driver for the New York Times, both of whom were licensed to carry firearms, were able to drive two AK-47 rifles and ammunition through nine police checkpoints that were using the device without any of them detecting the weapons.[5]

Iraqi civilians have complained that the device seems to have "an unerring attraction to shampoo and soapsuds". According to Iraqi police officer Jasim Hussein, "The vast majority of the people we stop, it's because of their perfume". A fellow officer, Hasan Ouda, commented that "Most people now understand it's what gets them searched, so they don't use as much." Jim McCormick of ATSC claimed that the apparent responsiveness of the ADE 651 was due to fragrances containing traces of the explosive substance RDX.[22]

The veteran Canadian-American magician and sceptic James Randi has publicly offered one million dollars to anyone who can prove the device's effectiveness as far back as October 2008.[23] Randi issued a statement calling the ADE 651 "a useless quack device which cannot perform any other function than separating naive persons from their money. It's a fake, a scam, a swindle, and a blatant fraud. Prove me wrong and take the million dollars."[10] According to Randi, and as reported by the New York Times on November 3, 2009, nobody from ATSC has responded.[5]

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the ADE-651 had been tested around 2008 in Israel but was "kicked out of the country". An Israeli explosives expert told the magazine: "The thing has absolutely nothing to do with the detection of explosives." When it was displayed at an arms and security fair in Beirut in April 2009, a visiting explosives expert described it as "one big fraud". Gadi Aviran, the head of the Israeli security firm Terrorgence, said: "If someone comes to an expert, claiming that he had developed a device that can detect the smell of explosives from several meters away, the expert must know that this is physically not possible."[24]

The FBI has repeatedly issued alerts about dowsing rod devices being used as explosive detectors. It described one such device, the Quadro Tracker, as "a fraud" and told all agencies to immediately cease using it. Another alert issued in 1999 told agencies: "Warning. Do not use bogus explosives detection devices."[3] A US Army test of a similar device found that it was unable to detect a truck carrying a tonne of TNT when it drove up behind the operator.[10] In June 2009, the US Army carried out a laboratory test including X-ray analysis on the ADE 651 that found it to be inffective. According to Major Joe Scrocca, "The examination resulted in a determination that there was no possible means by which the ADE 651 could detect explosives and therefore was determined to be totally ineffective and fraudulent. As a result of that study, the U.S. military notified all military and civilian personnel in Iraq that the bomb detection device is ineffective and should not be relied upon as a means of insuring the safety of any personnel."[25]

The BBC's Newsnight programme investigated the ADE 651 in a report broadcast in January 2010, asking the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory to assess one of the "programmed substance detection cards" used in the device to detect TNT. The laboratory found that the card contained only a standard radio frequency security tag of the type used in stores to prevent shoplifting. According to the laboratory's Dr. Markus Kuhn, it was "impossible" for the card to detect anything and it had "absolutely nothing to do with the detection of TNT". The card could not be programmed, had no memory, no microprocessor and no form of information could be stored on it. Despite the high cost of the devices, the cards were worth only about two to three pence (3–5¢) each. Kuhn commented: "These are the cheapest bit of electronics that you can get that look vaguely electronic and are sufficiently flat to fit inside a card." The "card reader" was found to be an empty plastic box. Explosives expert Sidney Alford described the device as "immoral", telling Newsnight that "it could result in people being killed in the dozens, if not hundreds". Newsnight noted that thousands of people had indeed been killed and injured in devastating car bomb attacks in Baghdad such as the 25 October and 8 December 2009 Baghdad bombings, without the bombers being detected by the ADE 651 devices.[3]

Jim McCormick refused to be interviewed for the Newsnight investigation, but told The New York Times that ATSC would remain in business: "Our company is still fully operational."[12] He told The Times that ATSC had been dealing with doubters for ten years and that the device was merely being criticised because of its "primitive" appearance. He said: "We are working on a new model that has flashing lights."[8]

Investigations and export ban


United Kingdom

In January 2010, ATSC's Jim McCormick was arrested on suspicion of fraud. The investigation was personally ordered by Colin Port, the Chief Constable of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary.[8] In a statement given to The Times, the force stated:

We are conducting a criminal investigation, and as part of that, a 53-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation. That man has been released on bail pending further inquiries. The force became aware of the existence of a piece of equipment around which there were many concerns, and in the interests of public safety, launched its investigation. It was reported to the Chief Constable Colin Port, through his role as the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on international development. He is chair of the International Police Assistance Board. Given the obvious sensitivities around this matter, the fact that an arrest has been made, and in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we cannot discuss it any further at this time.[8]

Following the BBC Newsnight exposé of the device, the UK Government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that its tests had shown that "the technology used in the ADE651 and similar devices is not suitable for bomb detection" and they "could cause harm to UK and other friendly forces in Iraq and Afghanistan". It had therefore decided to ban the export of the ADE 651 and similar devices to those two countries under the Export Control Act 2002, with effect from 27 January 2010. The device had not previously been subject to export restrictions as it was non-military equipment. The department offered "cooperation with any investigation [the Iraqi authorities] may wish to make into the how the device came to be bought for their military as bomb detection equipment."[26] The banning order prohibited the export to Iraq and Afghanistan of "‘electro-statically powered’ equipment for detecting 'explosives'".[27]


The failure of the ADE 651 to prevent a series of bombings in Baghdad and the circumstances of its procurement raised concerns in Iraq even before it became the subject of media exposés. The New York Times reported in November 2009 that Aqeel al-Turaihi, the Iraqi Interior Ministry's inspector-general, had begun an investigation into the contracts that the ministry had signed with ATSC.[5] The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, also ordered an investigation into the effectiveness of the devices following a number of bomb attacks.[3] The Iraqi parliament did not order an official investigation but Iraqi MP Nadeem al-Jabiri said: "the security and defence committee in the parliament, headed by Hadi al-Amiri, is following up this matter as part of the parliament's duty as a monitoring entity."[10]

The BBC's revelations in January 2010 caused outrage in Iraq. A police officer told The New York Times: "Our government is to be blamed for all the thousands of innocent spirits who were lost since these devices have been used in Iraq." MP Ammar Tuma of the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee said: "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device."[12] He told the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper: "The tasks of the committee are limited to two tracks, [and that is] reaching the truth over what happened with regards to the signing of the contracts for these bomb detection devices; firstly by following up on the details of the contract and looking at the background of this, as well as the possibility of collusion by those who signed this contract, or whether this [ineffectiveness] is the result of technical weaknesses in these devices. Either of these [options] deserves accountability." He said that Defence Minister Abd al-Qadr Muhammed Jassim al-Obaidi had informed the Iraqi Parliament during emergency parliamentary hearings in 2009 that "the detection of car bombs and explosive material using these devices is very limited, and this increases the likelihood that these devices have low efficiency."[28]

Another MP, Hussain al-Falluji, demanded that Iraqi security forces should immediately cease using the ADE 651. His proposal to establish an investigative committee and seek to recover the money spent on the devices was supported by other parliamentarians.[29] Hadi Al-Ameri, the head of the Parliament's Security and Defense Committee, said that he would push for an official investigation to "find out how this piece of equipment was sold to Iraq." If it was determined that ATSC was responsible he planned to "seek compensation via the ministry of foreign affairs."[30] MP Haneen Kado said: "If we rely on these devices there is no point in having checkpoints. It makes the whole of Baghdad open to terrorist attacks. We are in a dangerous situation and there could be new bombings at any time. We must investigate exactly who bought and sold these detectors and see that they answer in court."[31]

The Supreme Board of Audit in Iraq announced an investigation into the procurement of the ADE 651, focusing on the officials who had previously given assurances of the device's technical soundness.[12] The Iraqi Army's Baghdad Operations Command, which had previously procured 100 of the devices, distanced itself from their use. Major General Qassim al-Moussawi said: "The devices have helped us in parts of our work but in some aspects they are not useful. Their performance does not match our aspirations. There is some percent of error in their performance and these devices must be updated."[29] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was reported to have ordered a new investigation of how the devices had been procured, looking into whether there was any corruption involved.[32]

According to the Iraqi Interior Ministry's inspector-general Aqeel al-Turaihi, he had investigated the device in 2008 but found it "inoperative" and costly and recommended that Iraq should not buy it. He told Reuters: "There was corruption associated with this contract and we referred to this and submitted our report to the Minister of the Interior. We said that the company which you made a contract with is not well-regarded internationally in the field of explosives detectors, and the price is very high and not commensurate with the abilities of this device."[33] Al-Turaihi said that the buying process had been "marred by suspicions over the equipment and the efficiency and value of the contracts. There were senior officials involved in these transactions."[31] The initial investigation did, however, find it could detect some bombs and the ministry went ahead with the contract despite al-Turaihi's concerns.[33]

Despite the controversy, the device is still being used at checkpoints across Iraq. The Iraqi Interior Ministry has defended the continued use of the ADE-651. The head of the ministry's counter-explosives unit, General Jihad al-Jabiri, told the BBC that his organisation had "conducted several tests on them, and found them successful. In addition, we have a series of achievements officially documented by the Baghdad operations centre, from all the provinces, which establish that these devices detected thousands of bombs, booby-trapped houses and car bombs, and we've noticed a reduction of bombing activities to less than 10 per cent of what it was." A senior ministry official, Assistant Deputy Minister General Tareq al-Asl, told Asharq Al-Awsat: "The reason the director of the company was arrested was not because the device doesn't work, but because he refused to divulge the secret of how it works to the British authorities, and the Americans before them. I have tested it in practice and it works effectively and 100% reliably."[34]


After the ADE 651 became the focus of controversy for its role in Iraq, concerns were raised in Pakistan about its employment as a bomb detector by the Pakistani security forces. A senior official at Jinnah International Airport denied that it was using the ADE 651, claiming that the Airport Security Force had designed the device in use there, but other ASF officials acknowledged that their device "operated on the same principle as ADE-651." Pakistani scientists rejected the scientific basis on which the device was claimed to work; Professor Shahid Zaidi of Karachi University told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn that "there has to be an electric, magnetic or electromagnetic field for a device to work in such a manner. Furthermore static fields don’t move around the way it is being claimed by some. Also don’t forget that there are so many radio waves of different frequencies all around us. I just don’t see how this device would work." Dawn challenged the ASF to test the device to confirm its effectiveness but the ASF refused, insisting that the device works.[21]

Other similar devices

Another "remote substance detector" device, the Global Technical GT200, has come under scrutiny in Thailand in the wake of the controversy over the ADE 651. The Bangkok Post reports that the GT200 is virtually identical to the ADE 651 and has been described by critics as a "divining rod" which uses "controller cards", like the ADE 651, to find explosives. The Post attributes the death of several Royal Thai Police officers to its repeated failures to detect explosives.[2]

The Quadro Tracker, also known as the Positive Molecular Locator, was a similar device sold by Quadro Corp. of Harleyville, South Carolina between 1993 and 1996.

Several other similar devices are being marketed in various countries, including the HEDD1 (formerly known as Sniffex Plus), marketed by Unival in Germany; Alpha 6, marketed by ComsTrac in the UK; PSD-22; and H3Tec.


  1. ^ a b Sengupta, Kim (2010-01-22). "Head of bomb detector company arrested in fraud investigation". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  2. ^ a b "UK bans bomb detectors". Bangkok Post. 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d Hawley, Caroline; Jones, Meirion (2010-01-22). "Useless bomb detector sold worldwide risks lives". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  4. ^ Lawrence, Quil (2009-09-08). "Portable Bomb Detector Prompts Debate In Iraq". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Nordland, Rod (2009-11-04). "Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. Sees as Useless". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  6. ^ "A Direct, Specific, Challenge From James Randi and the JREF". James Randi Educational Foundation. 2009-11-07. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  7. ^ a b "ADE-651 Portable Explosive Detector". Prosec. Archived from the original on 2010-01-22. 
  8. ^ a b c d e de Bruxelles, Simon (2010-01-22). "Head of ATSC 'bomb detector' company arrested on suspicion of fraud". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  9. ^ "Cumberland Industries UK ADE 651 datasheet". Archived from the original on 2009-11-07. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  10. ^ a b c d e de Bruxelles, Simon; August, Oliver (2009-11-28). "Iraqis spent $80m on ADE651 bomb detectors described as useless". The Times. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  11. ^ Morris, Steven (2010-01-22). "Boss who sold bomb detectors to Iraq arrested over fraud". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  12. ^ a b c d Mohammed, Riyadh; Nordland, Rod (2010-01-23). "British Man Held for Fraud in Iraq Bomb Detectors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  13. ^ Companies House records for registered companies 03407495 and 06797101. Accessed 24 January 2010
  14. ^ Roth, Richard (2010-01-27). "Faulty Bomb Detectors". 
  15. ^ Strobel, Warren P.; Hammoudi, Laith (2009-12-09). "Baghdad security chief out after deadly car bombings". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  16. ^ Staff (2010-01-23). "UK halts exports of machines marketed as bomb detection device for Iraq and Afghanistan". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  17. ^ Staff (2009-09-12). "Gobierno del Estado cuenta ya con equipo para detectar armas, drogas y explosivos: Silverio Cavazos". Gobierno del Estado de Colima. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  18. ^ Fausto Ovalle (2009-02-17). "Ejército combate al narco con tecnología de punta ¿inservible?". Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  19. ^ "ADE651 - Effectiveness". ATSC Ltd. Archived from the original on 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  20. ^ Staff (2010-01-24). "Dure bomdetector blijkt compleet nutteloos". Het Nieuwsblad. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  21. ^ a b Abdullah, Hasan (2010-01-26). "Lives at airport threatened by bogus bomb detectors". Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  22. ^ Dolan, Jack; Issa, Sahar (2009-24-06). "Iraqi's sweet sorrow: Bomb sniffers detect his perfume". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  23. ^ Randi, James. "A Direct, Specific, Challenge From James Randi and the JREF". Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  24. ^ Putz, Ulrike (2010-01-24). "Dunkle Geschäfte mit dem Sprengstoffschnüffler". Der Spiegel.,1518,673669,00.html. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  25. ^ Kirka, Danica (2010-01-23). "UK halts exports of machines marketed as bomb detection device for Iraq and Afghanistan". Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  26. ^ "Government statement on 'bomb detectors' export ban". BBC News. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  27. ^ "The Export Control (Amendment) Order 2010. Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 121.". Office of Public Sector Information. 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  28. ^ Al-Ily, Nasser (2010-01-25). "Iraq to Investigate Purchase of Defective Bomb Detectors". Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  29. ^ a b Mohammed, Muhanad (2010-01-23). "Iraq MPs demand bomb detector be axed after UK ban". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  30. ^ Staff (2010-01-24). "‘Magic wand’ bomb detector still rules Baghdad checkpoints". AFP. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  31. ^ a b Latif, Nizar (2010-01-30). "Purchase of 'useless' Iraq bomb detectors 'was corrupt'". The National (Abu Dhabi). Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  32. ^ Staff (2010-01-24). "Iraq's PM orders probe on bomb detectors". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  33. ^ a b Christie, Michael (2010-01-24). "Iraq Official Warned Against Anti-Bomb Device Buy". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  34. ^ "Iraqi Interior ministry still backing 'bomb detector'". BBC News. 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address