Call on Customs Department to suspend the RM828,000 installation of 23 units of Alpha Six, , allegedly “a new tracking device to detect drugs and firearms…from up to 300 metres away”, until it could publicly report that it had satisfactorily conducted tests to prove the efficacy of these devices
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The Customs Department should suspend the RM828,000 installation of 23 units of Alpha Six, allegedly “a new tracking device to detect drugs and firearms…from up to 300 metres away”, until it could publicly report that it had satisfactorily conducted tests to prove the efficacy of these devices.
My attention has been drawn to a report in New Straits Times today (p.10) under the heading “Gadget to ‘sniff out’ drugs and guns”, which reads:
“Johor Baru, Wed.- The Customs Department will install Alpha Six, a new tracking device to detect drugs and firearms concealed in carrier bags, at various entry points nationwide from August.
“Customs deputy director-general (enforcement) Abd Rahman Abd Hamid said the device, based on Swiss technology and costing RM36,000 each, would enable enforcement officers to easily uncover drugs and weapons hidden in traveling bags or inside compartments in vehicles.
“He said it can detect drugs ranging from amphetamine-type stimulants to cannabis.
“The hand-held device works by recognizing the molecular structure of the drugs or weapons, detecting them from up to 300 metres away.
“”The three entry points in Johor that will be fitted with the device are the Second Link and Causeway, while the third will either be the Stulang Laut ferry terminal or Tanjung Belungkur terminal,’ he said.
“Rahman said the department would have a total of 23 units for distribution nationwide.
“The Customs will continue to use dog units at entry points, although the device was easier to use.
“’Dogs can sniff out the drugs better indoors, but they are not so effective outdoors,’ he said.”
A reader felt that something might not be right after reading the report and did an Internet search and was very concerned to find reference to another drugs and weapons “detector” based on “molecular frequencies” which proved to be a fake.
This device, Quadro QRS 250 G detector, was debunked by a website,
http://skepdic.com/quadro.html, with the following introductory paragraph:
“The Quadro QRS 250G (the Quadro Tracker) is a plastic box with an antenna which was sold by Quadro Corp of Harleyville, South Carolina, as a detector of just about anything: drugs, weapons, golf balls, even lost coon dogs. Wade Quattlebaum's invention sold for about $1,000 each. Some schools and government agencies spent as much as $8,000 for the device which turns out to be good only at detecting suckers who can be easily parted with other people's money (i.e., our taxpayer dollars). Sandia Labs of Albuquerque, New Mexico, took one apart and discovered that there is nothing inside. It probably costs about $2 to make. For their trouble, Sandia labs was threatened with a lawsuit by Quadro. Quadro did not threaten to sue the FBI, however, when its tests determined that the Quadro Tracker was incapable of detecting anything. According to the FBI, the device was little more than a piece of plastic. Quadro may have had nothing in their Tracker but they certainly had chutzpah in their marketing: the FBI was one of their target markets.
“On January 19, 1996, the FBI Economic Crimes unit seized the merchandise and records of the Quadro Corporation and arrested its officers. In April, 1996, a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against Quadro Corp, which was convicted of engaging in a mail and wire scheme to defraud customers, under statutes 18 U.S.C. 1341 and 1343. In court it was pointed out that the Quadro Detector had been carefully examined and that no "inductors, conductors, or oscillators" were found, though Quadro advertised those as the working parts of its ‘secret technology.’ Quadro claimed that theirs were not "ordinary" inductors, conductors, or oscillators. Theirs are of an advanced sort not yet known to ‘regular science.’
“The FBI sent out a bulletin to their branches warning that ‘A device marketed to law enforcement agencies nationwide, the Quadro Tracker...is a fraud. All agencies should immediately cease using the device....’ Even so, several law enforcement officers, as well as several school principals, still swear by their QRS 250G Detectors.”
The Customs Department should clarify whether it is aware of scams in other countries merchandising useless devices with preposterous claims like able to detect drugs and firearms based on molecular structures or frequencies, and what steps it had taken to ensure that the 23 Alpha Six detector units to be installed in the country are first tested as serviceable products which would not make a joke of the department, the government and the country.
For a start, the Customs Department should conduct a public trial of the efficacy of Alpha Six devices to an independent panel, including elected representatives from both the government and opposition, the press and SIRIM.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman