The Independent's Baghdad Correspondent Patrick Cockburn explained how the pseudo-science behind these "sonars," as Iraqi checkpoint guards call them, allow the devices to detect explosives. "It is meant to work on the same principle as water-divining rods and has no power source, relying instead on the static electricity generated by the movement of the person holding it," he reports.
In the field, Iraqi soldiers and policemen armed with the ADE-651 walk the line of cars at checkpoints, pointing them at vehicles. If the wand attached to the handset vibrates, then that car should be searched for explosives. Explosives are rarely, if ever, found. Kim Sengupta, the Independent's defense correspondent, reports researchers have found random searches are more effective at finding explosives than the hand-held "divining rods."
(For an estimate of the threat posed by improvised explosive devices inside the United States, see "Napolitano Outlines Homeland Security Measures to Combat IEDs.")
Despite numerous experiments exposing the detectors as fraud and calls for an investigation by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Cockburn reports the ADE-651 is still used by guards at checkpoints. Last week, Cockburn reported he had two run-ins with guards still wielding the devices.
"[E]arlier this week I was prevented from entering one heavily guarded area with my car because the wand had twitched. I continued on foot but the police insisted that the car be parked a hundred yards away from them in case it really did contain a bomb," he writes. "Yesterday, the same car was stopped on Jadriyah bridge over the Tigris and held for 45 minutes for the same reason, until a police lieutenant suggested we cross the river by another bridge where a similar inspection by a bomb-detector produced no results."
He concludes that there are two deleterious consequences of the use of the ADE-651 at Iraqi checkpoints: It allows terrorist carbombs in, while creating time-devouring traffic jams that harm ordinary Iraqis and try their patience.
♦ Photo of Iraqi checkpoint by U.S. Navy/WikiMediaCommons