British businessman James McCormick was convicted on charges of fraud last week in London. McCormick had been charged with selling dowsing wands, essentially antennae attached to a plastic handle, to the Iraqi military as devices that could detect hidden bombs. McCormick made a large part of his more than $75 million fortune off of the sales of his fraudulent devices, many of which are still being used by Iraqi military and police today. He faces up to seven years in prison in his native U.K., and authorities have begun seizing his assets.
According to Cumberland Industries U.K., the ADE651 can detect both explosives and drugs using “electrostatic ion attraction technology” and bypass metals, lead, and concrete. The truth behind the miraculous bomb detectors however, is that they are powered by the ideomotor effect. This refers to subconscious impulses by our brains that manipulate muscles to act in certain ways that we are not aware of but still control. The ideomotor effect is also the secret behind Ouija boards and other similarly “magical” devices. These devices have absolutely no basis for accuracy at all, a fairly severe flaw when human lives are at stake.
The Iraqi army used such devices at military checkpoints, leading to a false sense of security that would turn out deadly on multiple occasions, most notably when 155 people were killed in an explosion in October of 2009. The bombers drove directly through multiple checkpoints with soldiers using what they thought to be bomb detectors and remained completely undetected. Former Iraqi bomb squad leader General Jehad al-Jabiri endorsed McCormick’s fraudulent product and is now being brought up on charges of corruption. Despite this, General al-Jabiri continues to defend the use of the devices, criticizing any failures as the fault of the user of said devices rather than the devices themselves.
Pseudoscience and junk science being used to make a buck is fraud at best, and as we have seen, it can be a lot worse. The fact that people can make that much money off of what is essentially con artistry in today’s world is extremely disturbing, especially when the cost comes in the form of hundreds of civilian casualties. In selling this crap, McCormick displays not only gross negligence and greed, but also an appalling lack of concern or care for the ramifications of his actions. He is exploiting the concerns of a government that has to deal with violence and terror everyday for profit without even batting an eye at the very real and dangerous consequences of such a scam. While he and General al-Jabiri may defend the validity of his product even in the wake of their oncoming imprisonment, it appears that he has failed to convince the jury, much less those who were affected by the nearly 300 deaths that could have been avoided if McCormick’s product were anything other than a total ruse.