ATSC stands for Advanced Technology Systems & Communications.

This was a very successful British company.

They sold bomb detection equipment to the developing world.

Between 2008 and 2010 they sold nearly 1,500 of these to Iran alone.

Each unit cost around £40,000.

Iran spent approximately £52 million on this advanced equipment.

The bomb detectors worked on the principle of “electro magnetic ion attraction”.

Each unit was hand-held with a swivelling antenna which was attracted to any explosives.

The unit was fitted with “programmed substance detection cards”.

These were similar to the chips in a mobile phone and could be changed depending on the particular substance you wanted to detect.

The chips utilised “the proprietary process of electrostatic matching of the ionic charge and structure of the substance”.

Which was how it detected the different types of explosives.

Except it didn’t.

The entire thing was a massive con.

The antenna was actually just a car aerial.

It was screwed loosely to the plastic handle so it would swivel as the user’s hand moved.

The “programmed substance detection cards” were the standard anti-theft tags you find on clothing in most stores.

They cost two to three pence each.

The device had no battery and was supposed to work off the static electricity generated by the user.

Dr Marcus Kuhn of Cambridge University said “It has no memory, no microcontroller, no way any form of information can be stored.”

The US Army tested them and found them absolutely useless.

In one test, the device failed to detect a ton of explosives in a truck immediately behind the user.

A New York Times reporter drove his car through nine checkpoints while the arms and ammunition in the boot went undetected.

While these devices were in use by the Iraqi police and military, thousands of people died in undetected bomb blasts.

But it wasn’t just Iraq.

6,000 units were sold to twenty countries including: Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Algeria, Bahrain, Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Why did so many people fall for it?

British and American authorities believe we are all susceptible to what they call “pseudo science”.

We don’t question something as long as it has the credibility of technical-sounding language.

We don’t interrogate the thing itself if the way it is presented is sufficiently obscure as to be beyond our grasp.

We are satisfied that it’s been developed by people more knowledgeable than us in that area.

So we don’t question it.

Just like we don’t question the proliferation of jargon in the business we work in.

We try to learn what it means.

Then we accept it as the conclusions of experts in that area.

And use it ourselves to sound more informed in meetings.

And in doing so, we give it more credibility.

And so on.

James McCormick, the founder of ATSC, was sentenced to ten years for fraud.

He had another view of the equipment he sold, and the way he sold it.


He said “It did exactly what it was meant to do. It made money.”