Scam Detectors

Another gem form Newsnight, it seems that several armed forces around the world have fallen for what essentially amounts to a half baked scam…one concocted by a British company. Back in the early days of the war on terror, just prior to the Iraq war, a British company claimed to have developed an electronic radio antenna device designed to detect explosives, drugs and pretty much anything else you wanted to find at considerable distances. Sounds good? The British Royal Engineers even took it around the world and demonstrated it to several military’s who ordered the devices to the tune of tens of millions of pounds worth of said devices. Iraq apparently bought as much as $85m worth of them and they are its key weapon in scanning for explosives at security check points.

Well the problem is, as Newsnight have demonstrated if you watch they’re video, it’s all little more than a scam. The devices contain no actual electronics (an asset tag, what they use to catch thieves in shops) is jammed in to fool anyone who opens it into thinking there’s electronics, but other than that the only thing that makes the thing swivel to “indicate” explosives is the movements of the operator.

Reading through its description on Wikipedia (while, yes not a terribly reliable source of info, but the links to what it says check out) the claims of the manufacturer, that it is powered by “static electricity”, should have immediately set off alarm bells in anyone with half a brain. While I’m no expert on electronics, I’ve used enough sensors and instruments in my time to know that they require not so much a lot of power, but a steady and reliable source of it. The static field of a person, stamping his feet or otherwise would not suffice (no more than its likely to make an e-meter work :crazy:!)

Also its manufacturer’s claim it works by use of “electrostatic magnetic ion attraction” :lalala:, that should have also immediately set off everyone’s bullshit detectors (or maybe everyone who was sold it were using bullshit meters made by the same company too!). That sounds remarkably like Technobabble, a term often used in science fiction shows when they start talking about remodulating the Delithium crystal matrix to cope with a transwarp phase field disruption in the presence of a Folaric radiation source.

….Or as one Imp. College Boffin puts it when questioned on the subject “…means bugger all to me!”

And you wonder how people fall for Ponzi schemes, Phishing scams or Nigerian 419’s! There is indeed one born every minute and one has to conclude that some of them work for the (so-called) “intelligence” services! Indeed what’s most worrying is that the JREF (an organisation devoted to debunking pseudosciences) were onto these people as early as 2008, offering a $1 million dollar reward to anyone who could prove these “bomb detectors” actually worked (no one has come forward yet!)

Despite this all, it seems it took the authorities in the UK until January 2010 to cop onto this fraud, with the arrest of one of the businessmen behind this scam, although others are still at large and marketing similar devices (which also almost certainly don’t work). They are still used as a critical part of the bomb detection policies in several countries overseas.

Interestingly enough one the guy arrested points out that the bulk of the money made on this scam went to “middle men” and on “training”…in other words it was siphoned off by dodgy and corrupt members of the foreign governments, many of whom probably couldn’t care less if it worked or not as it was merely an opportunity for them to milk some cash out of their government, which has now inevitably made its way into some anonymous Swiss or Cayman Islands bank account….oh! and in the case of Iraq ultimately a good deal of that money came from Western governments in the form of foreign military aid payments…i.e out of taxpayers pockets!

To me this is an excellent example of the power of Myth, that the people involved would sooner believe a load of grade A bull than what they could learn from “facts” and boring stuff like that (especially of course when they know they can profit from believing the myth). It is also difficult to believe that so many people who work in senior positions of various governments could be taken in by what seems like an obvious con trick. It also demonstrates why it is necessary to dismantle much of the network of secrecy built up around the security services. This whole episode (and the Wikileaks saga) just goes to show that those in charge of the security are just as gullible and inept as everyone else in the world and consequently there is simply no justification with allowing them to hide they’re errors behind a wall labelled “national security”. Had news of these devices been circulated in the media earlier, someone might well have yelled Bullshit! sooner and saved everyone a lot of money, and indeed prevented lives being lost as a result of bombs slipping through checkpoints.

And should anyone reading this post (or the articles linked to it) still believe these devices work, contact me cos I’m selling them on e-bay at $999.98 each….and I can also do you a deal on some Magic Beans too :wave:!


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