Go through any checkpoint in Iraq, and someone will probably wave a small, hand-held device over your vehicle. Dubbed the ADE651, it’s supposed to detect bombs. But in reality it’s totally useless, US military and technical experts tell the New York Times, with one retired officer saying it operates “on the same principle as a Ouija board.” US forces don’t use them, with one general describing them as a bogus “magic wand.”
Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the things, at $16,500 to $60,000 a pop. “Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,” says the head of the Iraqi government’s Directorate for Combating Explosives. It didn’t, however detect the two tons of explosives that exploded in downtown Baghdad last week, killing 155, which passed at least one ADE651-equipped checkpoint.