Thirteen months ago, I brought you my interview with James Randi about a military fraud that was costing human lives. It had to do with bogus bomb-detecting equipment sold to security forces in Iraq, to the tune of $85 million despite the fact that the devices were useless. They were in essence nothing more than divining rods, the pseudo-science quackery that people have fallen for throughout history when a con man told them they could be used to find water, oil, missing persons, etc. You can listen to that interview here.

At the time, Randi wrote to several authorities in Iraq offering them the JREF million-dollar prize if they could produce evidence that the ADE561 dowsing-stick actually worked. Now he has an update:

None of these authorities ever responded, and I suspected it was because they were already making their own profit from fluffing up the price…

Well, Iraqi police have just arrested Major General Jihad al-Jabiri, the commander of the bomb squad and one of those who received my letter! He’s a high-ranking police official who handled the business involved in buying the ADE561 toy, which was widely used by police and soldiers at security checkpoints and was meant to be a key weapon in the defense against insurgents. Sure.

The police finally got around to wondering how a series of blasts had killed hundreds in recent years despite the use of the ADE561. Militants had gotten trucks, buses and cars packed with explosives through Baghdad’s numerous checkpoints, with no trouble – and those checkpoints had been “protected” by the fake device!

The Iraqi police said that they have documents and incriminating evidence in the explosives detector case that point directly to al-Jabiri, who would seem to have a very dim future in his homeland… He’s charged with corruption – no stranger to Iraq, I believe. He was just doing what the boys all do.

The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced last year that it would ban exports to Iraq and Afghanistan of the ADE651 device, which is made in the UK. It’s shaped like a pistol and features a swiveling antenna meant to point at explosives. Of course, woo-woos continue to assert that the rod works, but the sound of explosions makes it hard to hear them….

The police say that al-Jabiri recommended that Iraq sign five contracts to supply security forces with the detectors for between $38,000 and $56,000 each. Jim McCormick, who makes the things in the UK, turns them out for $100 each.