The ADE651 Bomb Detector Fraud and the Potential for an Alien Tort Statute Claim

This article in the New York Times,* on the worthless bomb-detective divining rods currently being used by Iraqi forces to deter terrorists, might provide the basis for an extremely interesting lawsuit under the alien tort statute. Assuming you could get personal jurisdiction, and ignoring the fact that practically speaking there are much better alternatives out there, could an alien suffering some kind of legal injury bring suit in the U.S. against the manufacturer of the device?

The bomb-sniffing rod at issue in the NYT article is the “ADE651® device,” produced by ATSC, Ltd., a UK company. The device is essentially a divining rod or ouija board; it has no external power source, no apparent means of explosives detection, and is only operable by those who have been “carefully trained” in its use. Oh, and Iraq has apparently spent $85 million on them.

The Lebanon distributor of the ADE651, Prosec, provides this handy picture of the device, along with the accompanying description:

“The range of detection is around 50 meters with obstacles and up to 600 meters in outdoor areas, the unit can also detect explosives submerged in water or buried underground. Detection from a hovering helicopter is also possible.”

The Prosec spokesperson then added, “It can also receive free cable, make perfectly popped popcorn every time, and roast a 9 lb. turkey in under an hour.”ade651 snakeoil

The principle behind ADE651’s ability to detect explosives has been variously described as “electrochemical (Thermo-Redox) detection,” “nuclear quadrupole resonance,” “electrostatic ion attraction,” or, as Jim McCormick, the owner of ATSC, explained it, “The principal is Electrostatics. It is more akin to Coulomb’s Law than Gauss’.”

Now, where would the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) claim lie in all of this? Clearly in a purely US-domestic matter this would be grounds for a pretty heavy fraud action, but the ATS is not an open ended jurisdictional grant. It provides only that “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

So in the hypothetical of a case brought by an Iraqi against ATSC, Ltd., the “by an alien” requirement is clearly met, as is the “for a tort only” requirement, as fraud can be the basis of a tort claim. However, given current ATS jurisprudence, fraud is not the kind of tort that is “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

So rather than the ADE651, a better test case would be provided by the GT-200, which is by produced by Global Technical, a UK corporation. (Global Technical, by the way, alleges on its website to be a “United Nations Registered Supplier.” Anyone out there know what the hell this means? I’m assuming it’s fraudulently made up by Global Technical, in which case the UN needs to do something about it now.) The GT-200 is a dowsing rod device much like the ADE651. It needs no external power source and runs off of the “electro-static electricity” created by the human holding it.

The FAQ of the product contains the following gems:

Q: Can GT200 detect all types of narcotics and explosives?
A: Yes.

Q: Is there anything that can stop or block the GT200 from detecting substances?
A: To date, we have not found anything that will totally block or stop the substance signal being detected.

Q: What is the maximum distance that the GT200 can detect?
A: The detection distance for general search is up to 700 meters. It can detect substances in water (fresh or salt) up to a depth of 850 meter. In the case of buried substance it can detect up to 60 meter deep. For aerial reconnaissance, the distance extends to 4 kilometers.

While fraud is clearly at work with the GT-200, there’s something else important about it as well: the deaths of three policeman in Thailand have been attributed to the ‘malfunction’ of a GT-200:

As for an explosive-detection device, called the GT-200, that malfunctioned in detecting bombs and preventing an attack, the police chief said he would discuss with technicians, but needed more information before commenting.

A fourth death caused by the device occurred last month, also in Thailand:

Recently, the GT200 showed false negative results on 6 October 2009 at a bombing near Merlin Hotel, Sungai-Kolok district, Narathiwat province which caused one death and several injuries, as well as on 19 October 2009 during a bombing at the Pimonchai market, Muang district, Yala. During these two incidents, officials were called beforehand to check a car and motorcycle under suspicion. The device was not able to detect any dangerous substances. The bombs exploded a few minutes after the examinations.

Unlike the hypothetical case alleging mere commercial fraud, if the GT-200 can be attributed to human deaths, whether in the course of war or in police actions, the jurisdictional basis for a claim under the alien tort statute just got a whole lot stronger.

Next up: Magic Bomb Wands, Corporate Liability, and the Alien Tort Statute.

Update: Jim McCormick, chief director of the company that makes the ADE651, has finally been arrested.


*This is completely unrelated to anything above, but while writing this post I was amused to find that the author of the NYT piece apparently did some of his own research on web message boards, as you can see from his post here, asking one of the forum contributors (“DubiousDick”) to contact him. Isn’t contacting random internet commenters for a story something blogs do, rather than major national newspapers?

17 thoughts on “The ADE651 Bomb Detector Fraud and the Potential for an Alien Tort Statute Claim

  1. Pingback: Magic Bomb Wands, Corporate Liability, and the Alien Tort Statute « The View From LL2

  2. Looks like the legal commentators are regurgitating more rubbish withiut understand the equipment or processes or the difficulties in detecting explosives. Make some research on canine effectiveness and why many governments do not use them and trace detectors that react to cheese!
    Get you facts and research before making yourself look stupid. If a car is sold to so,meone who can’t drive and kills someone is the manufacturer at fault! get real

    • Hi there, Mr. Bolton. Or whoever it is from Global Technical’s IP address that decided to drop by.

      In a way, I hope you honestly do believe your GT200 “bomb detector” works as you claim, and that your actions are simply motivated by sheer stupidity. The only other possibility is that you know exactly what you are doing, and yet do not care that you have caused the deaths of at least four individuals and are endangering the lives of thousands more.

      But I suspect you are not stupid, just evil.

  3. Pingback: Jim McCormick, Director of ATSC, Has Finally Been Arrested — But Why Did It Take So Long, Why Are ADE-651s Still Being Exported, and Why Is Gary Bolton Still Free? « The View From LL2

  4. Some years ago I saw the ADE651 ‘detector’ or something very much like it demonstrated by the UK’s Royal Engineer sales team at Chatham. It was obviously a mumbo-jumbo confidence trick, I could never understand why they promoted it.

    • I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me, but still, wow.

      I’ve wondered before why the UK allowed these companies to keep on with their dowsing rod business, though I didn’t realize they were actively involved in their promotion. It makes their claims about taking “urgent action” against the ADE651 even more disingenuous.

  5. Hi Susan,

    A lot of responses on different websites have questioned why the Iraqis bought this equipment without testing it first. People need to understand that countries that buy the ADE651 and GT200 are specifically targeted because they have very weak purchase control and are therefore very easy to bribe.
    The Iraq deal was worth $85 million, McCormick has stated that he ‘only’ received $12 million, the rest has gone in bribes. Bolton and his ridiculous GT200 formerly known as the MOLE, that was discredited by Sandia Labs in the US, does exactly the same thing, bribing poorly paid government officials to buy his fradulent device.

    • As I discussed in the post “Magic Bomb Wands, Corporate Liability, and the Alien Tort Statute,” which is linked to above, the rampant bribery going on in regards to bomb detector procurement may be particularly significant, at least in the context of ATS litigation. The bribes show a level of state involvement that could potentially make McCormick and Bolton liable not just domestically for fraud, but also under international law.

      Depending on how the deals are actually structured, the bribes and cooperation between ATSC/Global Technical and foreign governments who purchase the devices just might amount to a joint venture, which would put them in similar standing as a state actor.

      Unfortunately, a fair amount of the google traffic that gets to this page does reference “stupid Iraqis” and the like, which is unfair and untrue. True, a few do believe the devices work, but then again, these things were sold in the States for decades too. And the primary reason these things are selling like hotcakes is not because of any belief in their efficacy, but rather the corruption and bribes that make them a rather lucrative product.

  6. Pingback: Police Raids Conducted on Global Technical, Grosvenor, and Scandec — Will the Magic Bomb Wands Finally Be Stopped For Good? « The View From LL2

  7. Hi Susan,

    It would appear that your site has now reached page 1 status. Now is the time to put forward your concerns regarding the Gt200 having UN approved status. I have sent several emails and letters to the UN regarding their approval and use of the the GT200 and ADE651 but todate without result, I have also passed it to the BBC newsnight team to see if they can move it forward.
    To keep this issue in the public eye is not an easy matter but there is a lot of us that try our best.
    very best regards

  8. Dear Susan and readers,

    Just seen your piece. Delighted you have covered this issue on a number of occasions and got a good google rank for the issue.

    just to clear up. Don’t think I was a random internet commentator, as in I kicked off the campaign on UKSkeptics ( I believe the first real effort in the UK, following coverage I saw on JREF site. as result, I was contacted by a nuber of others who had useful and direct information. I had written to the MOD, Defence Select Commitee, and others regarding the issue, long before the NYT and BBC work up to the story.

    Since then, others, notably Techowiz, have picked up the baton and done a great deal towards getting the sqalid trade shit down, at least in the UK.

    I suspect Rod contacted me, as other journalists have contacted other campaigners, because it was clear we had some of the history and details down from our own research. I would say that was a sensible way, at least as any, to shortcut your investigations.

    I am not here to defend myself, but felt that your asterisk comment needed a response. also, as it happens, you use some of my original research in your piece (acknowledgement please!) i.e. I tricked McCormick by looking up some physics and asking if it worked on coulombs law. He replied it was more like Gauss’s (or the other way around – it was sometime ago. This again highlighted that he had not one clue what he was talking about.

    O.K. be great if you could publish asking why no prosecutions against McCormick, Bolton yet?

    • Dubious Dick — my asterisked comment was a bit out of context here, so I probably should fix that up, but it definitely was not criticism about using you as a source. More the opposite, really. I’ve made a habit of noting the instances where I’ve found MSM publications using blogs and forums for sources for their stories; basically just snarky commentary on how the idea that blogs and other non-traditional news sources are somehow “parasitical” on big media is bass ackwards, as big media just as often gets their information from non-mainstream sources.

      And I’m happy to give credit wherever due, if you want to give me a link to chuck up there. I can’t really remember at this point, but I’m pretty sure I just lifted the quote from a comment McCormick made somewhere on the intertubes.

  9. Hi Susan,

    Like the rest of us I expect you were delighted to see the latest Newsnight investigation. Seems like the full story is now emerging. We warned the Defence Select Committee and the MOD back in early 2009 about all this. Seems the collaboration of REME was too embarassing and so they waffled a lot. Now it is public knowledge hopefully the pressure of the MPs will get McCormick, Bolton and Vollmar behind bars and their ill gotten gains confiscated!!

    Added a link to my blog at


    the man who said:

    “Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,” said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for Combating Explosives.

    “I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them,” General Jabiri said. “I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world.”

    More to follow!!!

  11. Please sign the petition here:

    and if interested in the history, please see here





  12. Hi Susan,

    First note the change of email for your personal info only.
    Secondly, I have updated my blog with some pictures of my friend and yours, Gary Bolton. Also I have questioned why the police have still not arrested him. Hope this finds you well, stay in touch,

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