A charge not to be sniffed at

Ministry of Truth is running a shocking and remarkable story:

BAGHDAD — Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq’s security forces have been relying on a device to detect bombs and weapons that the United States military and technical experts say is useless.

The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.

These worthless pieces of junk are being marketed, it transpires, by a British company:

If all there was to this story was a tale of a very American stock market fraud then that would be that, but despite this device having been exposed as being utterly useless, companies in the UK and Germany continue to market it to various police forces and other security services across the developing world.

Sniffex was exposed almost three years ago in Wired Magazine, which performed a series of tests – even giving the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt and making the test conditions ideal – but the device could not be made to detect explosives. The US Navy did its own tests. They arrived at the same conclusion:

Sniffex did not detect explosives. Every effort was made to meet the vendor’s needs to allow the device to operate under ideal conditions, but there was absolutely no indication the device met any single vendor claim.

Now you might think the CEO, the top management and the board of this British company could be arrested and charged with reckless endangerment of life, conspiracy to murder, and – since it undermines this country’s efforts to stabilise Iraq – possibly even treason.

You’d be wrong. It is possible that, under British law, the most these dangerous charlatans who have endangered the lives of our service own personnel, Iraqi security officers and the public can be charged with is fraud.

It appears their crime – in legal terms – might be no worse than selling a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t suck.

And that sucks