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Iraq Still Using Bogus Bomb Detectors


In May of this year James McCormick was convicted of selling fake bomb detectors to a number of countries, including Iraq, Belgium, Niger and Saudi Arabia. The devices, sold for $42,000, employ roughly the same technology as a golf ball finder and do nothing at all to detect bombs.  But even though they’re known to be ineffective, The Guardian reports they are still one of the chief instruments of bomb prevention in parts of Iraq:

The fake detectors were still being used at checkpoints in Iraq as recently as two days ago, when a wave of car bombs struck Baghdad, killing 55 people, the Independent reported. […]

A schoolteacher who witnessed one of Monday’s explosions said: “I went through one checkpoint on the way in [to Sadr City] where they had the detectors just before the bombing. “They look like wands and they are supposed to bend when they spot a bomb. But they are useless, everyone knows that.”

After learning they were phony the Iraqi government said they planned to “phase out” the devices. That was in April; so far only two provinces have followed through on that pledge. Since then more than 4,500 Iraqis have been killed. During the month of September alone, at least 200 Iraqis died in major bombings.

McCormick’s actions are repugnant, but perhaps more shocking is Iraq’s unhurried response. And Iraq is not alone: our writer living in Pakistan reports that the same devices are still used there as well. The detectors may offer the pretense of safety, but citizens of those countries would undoubtedly prefer real security.

[Car inspection photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • B-Sabre

    I have to wonder how to slice this up between ineptness, corruption and cultural issues – Islamic fatalism on one hand, and disdain for the most reliable form of bomb detection – bomb-sniffing dogs – that is found in many Muslim cultures.

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