Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Iraq’s Interior Ministry Finally Deals With Fake Bomb Detectors

Iraq’s three security ministries, Interior, Defense, and National Security, remain leaderless, and under the temporary control of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but one positive has emerged from this otherwise frustrating political stalemate. The Interior Ministry has returned several million dollars to the Finance Ministry, and a general has been arrested for the purchase of the bogus bomb detector wands.

In February 2011, the Interior Ministry finally took action on the ADE-651 bomb detectors that had been at the center of a controversy since they were first purchased in 2007. On February 2, the inspector general at the Interior Ministry announced that it was returning $20 million to the central government for buying the devices. The Ministry also said that senior officials had been sent to court for not revealing who was responsible for ordering the detectors. Then on February 12, the commander of the Ministry’s bomb squad, General Jihad al-Jabiri, was arrested for purchasing the devices. This was a dramatic change for the Ministry that had stuck by the bomb wands, and refused to persecute anyone for them.

Under Maliki’s previous administration, then Interior Minister Jawad Bolani stood by the ADE-651. He stopped prosecution of six officers charged with importing the bomb detectors, and blocked any further investigation into the matter in late-2010. The Ministry also stuck by the devices. General Jabiri for example, told the New York Times in November 2009 that the wands were effective and worked. This was despite repeated warnings by American forces that they didn’t, a similar announcement by the Ministry’s own inspector general in October 2010, and the British manufacturer being convicted of fraud that same year.

The bomb wands were first purchased in 2007 from the British company ATSC. The devices had no batteries, and were supposedly run by static electricity created by the operator walking in circles. The corporation claimed that they could detect guns, ammunition, drugs, human bodies, truffles, and contraband ivory. Such a description should have scared off any serious government official. Instead, Baghdad bought around 1,500 for $122 million.

Interior may not have a minister yet, but the clearing out of the old leadership has allowed it to finally deal with the bomb detectors. It took Interior four years to handle them despite nearly everyone saying they didn’t work. The purchase of the ADE-651 was a crime that not only wasted over one hundred million dollars, but also endangered millions of people as they were deployed throughout the country.


Dazzayi, Saman, “Iraqi Interior Ministry returns $20m to 2010 budget over explosive detector controversy,” AK News, 2/2/11

Nordland, Rod, “Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. Sees as Useless,” New York Times, 11/3/09

Reuters, “Iraq: Official Arrested in Connection With Bogus British Bomb Detectors,” Reuters, 2/17/11


amagi said...

Better late than never, clearly, but still farcical.

mbs_iraq said...

It must be frustrating for Maliki, who seems to genuinely want to tackle corruption, but is penned in by a political system in which he is powerless to influence the workings of his government. Whatever reason for the delay, at least he is using it to Iraq's advantage.

Out of interest, why haven't these ministries been filled? And how come the other parties are happy for Maliki to control them for the time being?

Joel Wing said...

I don't think Maliki has shown any real interest in fighting corruption. He makes announcements about it a couple times a year, and then does nothing. There are stories that his son has wracked up a whole bunch of money while working in the PMs office as well.

As for the security ministries, Maliki is holding all 3. His Iraqi National Coalition is supposed to get Interior and National Security and Allawi's is supposed to receive Defense. Allawi's list has provided a few nominees so far and Maliki has either rejected them or said nothing. He recently said that he will finally deal with the issue next week. We'll see. It seems like he's holding Defense as hostage to try to get some concessions from Allawi. Allawi lost much of his leverage when he agreed to join the government with only getting a promise about what position he would get in the future.

ali w said...

Joel, I just got back from Iraq this Monday and they were being used. Maybe it will take a few ninth before they are pulled.

Ali w

Joel Wing said...

I just read that the Inspector General at the Ministry of Interior believes that 75% of the money spent on the detectors went to kickbacks to Iraqi officials.