Presently in our discussion of tools and British responsibility we have something a bit more specific in mind and which concerns a massive fraud that has been effected in the present. We frequently see such bomb detectors in operation and we are unhappy (but unsurprised) to know that they do not work (we are under the impression that sniffer dogs work very well but that may not be an appropriate suggestion for Pakistan).
Thus the fact that more of us are not dead from terrorist attacks is not because the security is so efficient, rather the terrorists are simply exhausted by the demands of the job. Now that is a comforting thought.
It is is one of the world’s most obvious terrorist targets. So how
did a group of 10 militants armed with guns, bomb vests,
rocket-launchers and grenades get into Karachi’s Jinnah airport? Part of
the answer, incredibly, may lie in the fact that Pakistani security
personnel still guard the outer perimeter using versions of the phoney
bomb detector sold by the convicted British conman Jim McCormick.
device, which he called the ADE 651, was itself a variation of a common
design. Essentially, a telescopic radio aerial is attached by a hinge
to a plastic handgrip. When used by a “properly trained” operator, who
must first sensitise it to the “molecular frequency” of explosives, it
was supposed to point out bombs by swinging towards them.
In fact, all this was nonsense.
The aerial swings because of unconscious movements by the operator,
known as the ideomotor effect – the same thing that gives rise to the
common belief in dowsing. Nevertheless, McCormick and other fraudsters, such as Gary Bolton, exported thousands to clients around the world, including in Iraq and Pakistan. Less ambitious criminals used to sell them as golf ball detectors in the 1990s.
Like dowsers, though, many security personnel continued to keep the
faith. In 2010, even after McCormick had been charged with fraud,
Pakistan’s Airport Security Force admitted to the Dawn newspaper that they were continuing to use a device of their own design that operates on the same principle.
Iraq, which had been McCormick’s largest market, still uses them too,
despite repeated warnings. In 2009, the New York Times confronted bomb
squad commander Major General Jehad al-Jabiri with evidence of the ADE
651’s fraudulence, yet he insisted that it was effective, saying:
“Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects
bombs.” In 2011, al-Jabiri was charged
and later jailed for – of all things – taking bribes from McCormick.
And still the ADE 651s were being used, as recently October 2013.
At the same time it was apparently common to find Beirut security guards still scanning cars for explosives with an ADE 651, or something similar. And there are reports of other devices being used in the south of Thailand.
Indeed, according to Detective Sergeant Steve Mapp, who led the
investigation into McCormick, some people’s belief in the ADE 651 is
almost unshakeable. As he told Business Week, “In Kenya they said, ‘No, we know about Mr McCormick’s conviction, but we’re really glad we’ve got them – and they do work.'”