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Unproven Screening Devices Threaten the Lives of Police and Military

Unproven Screening Devices Threaten the Lives of Police and Military

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Published by RockCenterNBC
Dale W. Murray of Sandia National Laboratories authored this report about several products meant to detect explosives including the ADE-651, a device used widely by the Iraqi government to help detect improvised explosives. The integrity of the ADE-651 has been widely questioned and some have even called the gizmo a scam.
Dale W. Murray of Sandia National Laboratories authored this report about several products meant to detect explosives including the ADE-651, a device used widely by the Iraqi government to help detect improvised explosives. The integrity of the ADE-651 has been widely questioned and some have even called the gizmo a scam.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: RockCenterNBC on Dec 13, 2011
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Unproven Screening Devices Threaten the Lives of Police and Military
Dale W. MurraySandia National LaboratoriesP.O. Box 5800Albuquerque NM 87185
In a world plagued with improvised explosive devices,drugs and dangerous people, the desire to field technology toprotect our police and military is providing a fertile market for the proliferation of protection technologies that range from theunproven to the disproven. The market place is currentlybeing flooded with detection equipment making inflated andinaccurate marketing claims of high reliably, high detectionprobabilities, and ease of operation—all while offeringdetection capabilities at safe distances. The manufacturers of these devices have found a willing global marketplace, whichincludes some of the most dangerous places in the world.Despite a wealth of contradictory performance and testingdata available on the Internet, sales of these devices remainbrisk and profitable. Rather than enhancing the security of police and military personnel, the reliance on these unprovenand disproven devices is creating a sense of false securitythat is actually lowering the safety of front-line forces in placeslike Iraq and Afghanistan. This paper addresses thedevelopment and distribution history of some of these devicesand describes the testing performed by Sandia NationalLaboratories in Albuquerque, and other reputable testingagencies that illustrate the real danger in using this kind of unproven technology.
In early October 1995, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS)security personnel contacted Sandia National Laboratoriessaying that they had seen a demonstration of a contrabanddetection device that they were considering purchasing for detecting drugs at area-wide schools. The detector inquestion was manufactured by Quadro, a small companybased in Harleyville, South Carolina. The company’sbrochures, sent to Sandia by APS for review, suggested thatthis device—the Quadro Tracker—could detect and indicatethe location of drugs, explosives, and nearly any material thatit was programmed to detect—and it could detect thesematerials at a considerable distance. The brochure describedthe detection process as relying on the human body’selectromagnetic (EM) field to illicit an interaction between thedevice and the target material and would direct a swingingantenna that would point in the direction of the material beingsought. APS was considering the purchase of 200 of thesedevices at a cost of approximately $1,000 each. Thedepartment manager of the Contraband Detection Departmentat Sandia agreed to send several members of the departmentto make an assessment of the usefulness of the device.The Quadro Tracker was the first contact Sandia had withthis type of ‘detection’ device and was followed by a series of similar such devices. At first it seemed like it would be asimple matter to provide potential government buyers with theinformation they needed to avoid wasting their money andstaff’s time. In the end, it took years of performance testing toexplicitly prove to the public the nature of these types of devices and try to prevent these devices from—at best—justwasting the taxpayer’s money, and at—worst—costing thelives of military forces personnel, emergency responders, andcivilians. Sandia’s involvement, which began with simpleobservations, progressed to performing thorough technicalinspections, and finally to having to perform rigorous doubleblind performance evaluations on these devices.In 1998, Sandia was alerted to the next similar type of screening device—the DKL Laboratories LLC Lifeguard™.This device, however, was not a contraband detector, butinstead was advertized as being capable of detecting livingpersons who were hidden or obscured. It was obvious fromits intended purpose that the Lifeguard™ Models 2 and 3were clearly putting lives at risk. In this case, the new devicewas marketed as a ‘life rescue device’ that could be used toscan collapsed buildings in search for survivors, a falsepositive could cause a responder to needlessly risk their lifeentering a dangerous area searching for someone who wasnot there. Conversely, a false negative could mean someonetrapped inside a structure would potentially not be rescued if the search was called off based on the results of a negativescan. Another application advertised by the manufacturer of the Lifeguard was for use by police in searching for fugitives.In this case, a false negative could result in a police officer unguardedly entering an area where an armed fugitive washiding based on the device falsely indicating that there was noone in the area. Sandia eventually performed two evaluationsof this product; the first was a double-blind performanceevaluation, and the second was an engineering physicalexamination and destructive analysis of one of the devices.A third similar product emerged in 2002. This device,manufactured in the United Kingdom, was marketed as theMOLE by Global Technical Ltd. Interestingly, it was identicalin appearance to the Quadro Tracker—even its injectedmolded plastic handle appeared to be from the very samemold. For the testing conducted on the MOLE, Sandiaassisted the Denver branch of the National Institute of Justice(NIJ) National Law Enforcement and Corrections TechnologyCenter (NLECTC) in performing a double-blind performanceevaluation of the device. While the report of the test results,which was published by NLECTC on their website, largely putan end to the sales of the MOLE, it did not stop follow-oncomparable devices that were developed by other companiesassociated with both the MOLE and Quadro Tracker—devicesthat would eventually be blamed for numerous deaths in Iraqand Thailand as well as a number of alleged false arrests inThailand. While one of these devices was discredited by teststhat were performed by government-sponsored agencies in
978-1-4244-7402-8/10/$26.00 ©2010 IEEE
Thailand, this device still remains in use in a number of other countries, including Mexico.In 2007, several government agencies contacted Sandia toinquire about yet another device similar to the MOLE and theQuadro Tracker, which also had an antenna swinging from ahandle, called the SniffEx®. The device’s inventor, who isfrom Bulgaria, originally marketed the device in that countryunder the name Arsenal®; later it was marketed by a firm inTexas under the new name SniffEx®. This device did notneed to be examined or tested by Sandia, since very soonafter Sandia was contacted about testing the device, it wastested by others in well designed double blind tests. Testingshowed the SniffEx® to be completely ineffective.Even today, the onslaught of similar unproven detectiondevices continues to be introduced to the securitymarketplace. In nearly all cases, the products are advertisedas being capable of detecting nearly anything—whenprogrammed properly—with the directions that they simplyhave to be operated in the hands of a human. Mostly, thesedevices do not even require batteries. Not surprisingly, noneof these devices are ever accompanied by formal test reportsindicating successful double-blind testing conducted by areputable agency. They are, however, often accompanied byreports of demonstrations of the device that are reported as‘rigorous tests’ or the literature makes claims that future testsare pending and will be performed by the government or areputable testing laboratory. More often, the product literaturepresents testimonials of satisfied customers and anecdotalevidence of their efficacy.The actual double blind tests of the Quadro Tracker, DKLLifeguard, and the MOLE, which were conducted by SandiaNational Laboratories, are described in the following sections.
On the morning of October 16
, 1995, four members of theSandia Contraband Detection Department (including theauthor) visited a local vendor of the Quadro Tracker devicelocated in Albuquerque, NM. The Quadro Tracker QRS 250Gconsists of a single piece of equipment approximately fiveinches tall. The straight
plastic handle has a telescopingchrome-plated antenna that can be swung up from its storagegroove in the front of the handle and be extended toapproximately two feet out in front of the handle. The antennais attached by a pin forming a hinge that allows the antennaeto swing freely from side to side as shown in Figure 1.Programming the device to search for a specific material wasaccomplished by inserting a small contact-less plastic boxcalled a programming chip into a slot in the handle.
Device Procedure
The detection procedure begins by the operator first holdingthe device in one hand to the side of his or her body with theantenna pointing down at the ground for about ten seconds.The company representative stated that this procedure‘discharged’ the device and prepared it for detection. Next,the operator raises the device until the antenna is orientednearly horizontal to the ground but with a slight down angleand is pointing forward relative to the operator’s position. Theoperator then walks forward while watching the antenna until itswings 90 degrees across the operator’s body. The operator notes the direction of the antenna; it is supposed to bepointing in the direction of the target material. In order to ‘pin-point’ the location of the material the operator chooses a pathroughly perpendicular to the first path then performs a seconddetection. According to the company, the point where the twolines of detection cross is the area where the target is located.
Figure 1: Quadro Tracker illustration.
Observations and Analysis
After the demonstration, the Sandia personnel made notesand observations and asked the representative some morequestion about the device. One of the more importantstatements made about the device was that there was a lackof any power source other than static electricity generated bythe operator walking—the device contains no power source(e.g., batteries) or motors. According to the manufacturer’sspecification sheet, the force that moves the antenna isderived from an electromagnetic field that exists between theoperator’s body, the device, and the contraband material. Itwas observed by Sandia personnel during this demonstrationthat the force required to rotate the antenna’s mass 90degrees could not possibly come from such a weak electricfield even if such a field did exist. Without any other explanation the probable sources of the rotational forces are:
Gravity when the pin pivot is tilted away from vertical asthe operator walks.
The torque applied when the operator propels the deviceforward by pushing on only the handle end of the antennawhile it is not perfectly aligned with the forward motion.
Wind.Another important observation was that there were noelectrical contacts between the programming chip and thedevice.The conclusion of the Sandia observers was that theadvertized mechanics of the Quadro Tracker device appearedto not be based on any known laws of physics.
Chip Component Analysis
These findings were shared with the would-be purchaser,APS, and with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) who wasinvolved with Sandia’s program to assist various schoolsaround the country with security problems like weaponsscreening. When NIJ discovered Sandia’s involvement withthe Quadro Tracker, they asked if Sandia would examine aQuadro Tracker that the company had sent to them in anattempt to get a NIJ endorsement to recommend its use by
police agencies. Within a couple of days the NIJ’s unit arrivedin Albuquerque for examination.The first test performed on the Quadro Tracker was to x-raythe sealed handle. Despite the fact that the advertizingliterature stated that the device employed inductors,conductors, and oscillators, the x-ray showed that none of these components were present.The local Quadro Tracker vendor had shown how thedevice could also be used without programming chips(although this mode of operation was not mentionedanywhere in the product literature) by holding a sample of thematerial against the handle. This was demonstrated by thevendor wrapping a hair from the head of one of the Sandiamembers around the handle and using the device to find her.While she was sitting in plain view in the room, hedemonstrated how the antenna pointed at her when hewalked by. Based on this purported rationale, the Sandiaevaluators decided to open the gunpowder programming chipto see if it contained some sample of gunpowder. The plasticcase was securely glued shut so the only means to open thecomponent was through destructive analysis with the use of asmall hand saw. After the case was opened, the only thingfound inside was a slip of black paper. The paper wassubjected to analysis by an ion mobility spectrometer to see if the paper was contaminated with gunpowder; the test wasnegative. Eventually, after the FBI raided the corporateheadquarters of the Quadro Corp, the mystery of the blackpaper was solved. The inventor, Wade Quattlebaum, showedhow the programming chip was made; he used a Polaroidcamera to take a photograph of the target material (for instance a sample of marijuana or gun powder), then used anenlarging copier to print an enlarged image of the material onblack paper. The paper was cut into small rectangles andplaced inside the chip.To the scientists and engineers at Sandia, the idea that asimple piece of black paper on which an image of somecontraband material was printed could be diced up and usedto locate contraband material at any distance—even smalldistances—seemed so obviously misguided that no one wouldever take this type of device seriously again. This proved notto be the case.
In late 1997, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Officeof Safeguards and Security (NN-51) contacted Sandia torequest that Sandia perform a performance test on a devicethey thought could be of great benefit to DOE security forceswhile protecting critical DOE facilities. The device was theDielectrokenetic Laboratories, LLC. (DKL) LifeGuard
. Thisdevice was purported to be capable of detecting a livinghuman at long distances even obscured behind barriers.
Manufacturer Claims
The following list of features and claims were extractedfrom the manufacturer’s website at the time of the request [1].
The Dielectrokenetic Laboratories (DKL), LLCLifeGuard
series of devices is designed to locate andtrack living human individuals, even when hidden fromthe operator, based on the device’s response to thebeating human heart. The human heart has such aunique signal that the device can distinguish betweenhumans and great apes. This discrimination is achievedby employing a patented electronic polarization filter thatprevents the device from responding to all other signals.
These devices have an accuracy of 
at 500 meters for the Model 1,
at 20 meters for the Model 2, and
at500 meters for the Model 3. Barriers reduce range inproportion to the thickness and density of the barrier. For the Model 2, an external wall in the average house willreduce the detection range by a foot.
“The devices indicate detection and tracking by the pointof an antenna protruding from the front of each devicewhen the antenna swings and points in the direction of the nearest beating human heart. The swing-and-pointoperation of the antenna is driven by the effect of dielectrophoresis (DEP).
is composed of two parts: a passivedielectrophoretic (DEP) part and a set of powered parts.
DKL LifeGuard
’s patent-approved electronic circuitryfilters out everything but ultra-low frequency signals, andDKL’s unique electric polarization filter responds only tothe unique non-uniform electromagnetic field generatedby the beating human heart. LifeGuard
’s patent-pending filtering circuits allow only signals from a humanfield to flow to a piece of special dielectric material in theupper part of the LifeGuard
(Model 2’s) case. Thisspecial dielectric material is capable of becoming highlypolarized. When the LifeGuard
is moved through ahuman field this dielectric material polarizes, positive andnegative charges separate and collect on opposite endsof the instrument. Dielectrophoresis causes theLifeGuard
to swivel and point at the beating heart, thecenter of the human electric field. This effect is entirelypassive and does not require power.
The LifeGuard
is dependent on the operator for four key activities:1. The operator must move the instrument throughthe human’s non-uniform electric field in order todetect a target.2. The operator must recognize the torque thatsignals detection.3. The operator serves as part of the LifeGuard
’sdielectric array. This is why the LifeGuard
 does not detect the operator.4. The operator provides a link to ground for theLifeGuard
DKL uses newly available polarizable materials andfabricates them into a size and shape that maximizes thedielectrophoresis force. The LifeGuard
uses state of the art materials.
Double-Blind Test Configuration and Procedure
Sandia contacted the company and requested that theyparticipate in a double-blind test of their product. After severalfalse starts, the tests were finally scheduled for March 20,1998. The test site was a remote location on Kirtland Air Force Base where no people other than those involved in thetesting would be present for at least one mile. Five plasticshipping crates that were large enough to hide a person while

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