Surveillance fraud

Add together a climate of fear, a trust in surveillance and security technology and a massively profitable industry, you get a perfect climate for fraud. Now, one of the most outrageous frauds in the area of surveillance and security has just been exposed courtesy of ex-magician and sceptic James Randi, and the BBC’s Newsnight team. A British manufacturer owned by Jim McCormick, based in Somerset, UK, has sold around $85 million US worth of their ADE-651 ‘explosives detector’ to the Iraqi government, and it is now in common use throughout the Middle East at checkpoints and borders. Yet the ADE-651 has no technical capabilities to detect anything. It is just a lump of plastic with a hinged metal rod sticking out of it, and contains only a basic commercial anti-theft tag – and is very similar to several previous fake bomb detectors.

The ADE-651 'working' in Iraq (BBC)

Mr McCormick has stated that the device is based on ‘dowsing’ principles (which have no known scientific basis). This device may have resulted already in many needless deaths, and yet some people still seem to put their trust in it, including a senior Iraqi military commander, Major General Jehad al-Jabiri, who is quoted as saying “whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs.” Or perhaps he cares more about his kick-back…

Moscow cops watch pre-recorded video footage

The police in the Russian capital have admitted that their police officers in several districts were watching pre-recorded video footage in place of live streaming surveillance pictures for an undetermined proportion of the five months from May to September last year, according to RT. It seems that the private company subcontracted to maintain the system, StroyMontageService,¬†was defrauding the police of the equivalent of over a million dollars by recycling footage and not actually servicing the city’s video surveillance system.

Several questions are raised immediately here. Firstly, how closely were police actually watching if they didn’t even notice that they were watching recorded footage (surely the time-codes would have been wrong?); secondly, if the codes had been changed, how would there have been any way of them knowing, unless and until a major live situation was quite clearly not visible? Thirdly, how frequent is this kind of either deliberate fraud by subcontractor elsewhere, and indeed how common are simple errors that might lead to the same outcome? And finally, did this lack of live video feed make any difference to Moscow’s crime rate or clear-up rate. If they took five months to notice, it does rather suggest that video surveillance plays little role in either…