John McAfee: 'My life is sort of weird. I don't back off from things'
PORTLAND, Ore. - Computer software millionaire John McAfee, who is on the run from police in Belize, now says he plans on staying in Portland for a few years.
McAfee, who founded the anti-virus software company that bears his name, made international news when police in Belize wanted to question him in connection with a death at his neighbor's home. It's a move he claims was connected to a broader effort by the government there to quiet him.
Now he's landed in Portland. KATU's Emily Sinovic took a walk and sat down at Stumptown Coffee with McAfee on Monday morning to talk about what's next for him. Below are excerpts from her interview:
Emily Sinovic: Do you think you're getting your message out there or do you think the media twists what you have to say?
John McAfee: Oh the media has no clue. Last night I actually started putting photos up of teams I used to collect information. That's the first time I've done that.
Sinovic: To collect information on what?
McAfee: On what was happening in Belize. The links between the Belize government and Hezbollah and the giving of false identifies of Hezbollah terrorists. They've been doing that for years.
Sinovic: Ten years ago did you ever think you'd be in this situation?
McAfee: You know my entire life has been a surprise. Every day is something I didn't expect. I didn't expect to be in Portland, of all places, and I never expected to have to leave Belize. But life is a lot more fun when it's a mystery to you.
Sinovic: Some people think you're crazy.
McAfee: Most people think I'm crazy.
Sinovic: And you're ok with that?
McAfee: Absolutely. Do you care what people think about you? Maybe you do.
Sinovic: I think it's natural.
McAfee: Here's why it doesn't matter: What people think about you will change day to day. Just like what they feel about you. You've been in love before, right? Are you still in love with that man? No. Everything changes. Feelings change slowly. Thoughts change overnight, so it doesn't matter if they think you're crazy or they love you. If they love you, they'll hate you in a year. If they hate you, they'll love you in a year.
Sinovic: Do you seek out the shock factor to keep people
McAfee: If it doesn't happen automatically, I create it, of course. I have a story to tell and I can't tell it if people don't listen and people will not listen if it's a sweet story. People don't like sweet - not for long. They like the tension, tragedy and catastrophe. It's just the nature of the human being.
Sinovic: You said you're probably going to be in Portland at least for a year or so. Can you see yourself being here long term?
McAfee: If I keep seeing interesting people like I see all the time then I might. I like interesting things. I like things that change, I like thing that have mystery. Why Portland, for example? Why is this town so strange?
Sinovic: Strange you said?
McAfee: I mean, this is certainly not Pocatello, Idaho.
Sinovic: It's not Belize.
McAfee: It's definitely not Belize. There's a strange country. But I could see myself living here.
I'm not fond of the press, to be quite honest with you, but I think the Portland press is an exception. The young lady from the Willamette Week was very gracious and everyone else has been, as well. The press is usually, I view it as a pack of starving sharks looking for something to eat, which is really what you are. You're looking for something to report on. I mean, we have this beautiful town here. What can we say about it that people will actually listen to? You're hungry for the story. What that does is make a hugely competitive.
Sinovic: So what's next for you? You're basically trying to handle all the media right now.
McAfee: I'm trying to handle the media. I think the crazy tag probably has gone as far as it can go, so I'm going to start acting sane for a while and maybe bring out some humor. I did a post last night on the girls who had to become part of the information network. That's the first time I've done that. I didn't know what the response would be, but the response has been fairly positive.
Sinovic: Can you describe what those last moments in Belize were like, what those last days were like?
McAfee: The last days were very scary because the government, the fever pitch to collect me - and by the way, they're not interested in talking to me about a murder. I've offered several times to meet in any neutral country to answer any questions that they want - they just want to collect me so that I'll shut up about Belize. Belize depends for 70 percent of the economy on tourism. So if tourists think it's a scary place or a corrupt place they're not going to go. So they want me to shut up and I'm just not going to do that.
Sinovic: Do you feel like the government turned on you?
McAfee: They didn't really turn on me. This is how they work. I should have stayed in San Pedro, which is the tourist haven and where everybody lives. I was the only white man living in the jungle, the only white man. And after two years people thought, "well, he needs to pay up like everybody." So they came and asked for two million dollars and I threw them off the property.
Sinovic: Up front asked you for two million dollars?
McAfee: I should have written them a check for two million dollars. That's what I should have done.
Sinovic: Who was there asking you for two million dollars?
McAfee: The political party, the party in power, the UDP. I basically said "get off my property." Big mistake. A week later the GSU raided. They sent 42 armed soldiers, they shot my dog, handcuffed me for 14 hours in the sun, destroyed my property, stole a half-million dollars worth of stuff, came back two days later and said "would you like to donate?"
The warrant said running a meth lab. I don't do drugs, I don't even drink. I haven't done either for 30-odd years and everybody knows that. It was just an excuse to show "we can do what we want with you."
Well what they missed was the press. I haven't spoken to the press for ten years, I don't like the press. But when I need the press I can be as charismatic as the next man so I went to the international press and that really ticked them off. And from that point on my life became hell.
I had a series of charges. I had 11 raids on various properties that I own. They destroyed millions of dollars worth of stuff, stole millions of dollars worth of stuff and then finally my neighbor was killed. They didn't charge me, they didn't say "you did it." They said "we want to talk to you." I'm not going into the police station. That's insane. They wanted to lock me up somewhere forever so I could no longer talk to the press.
So my last days, getting back to your question, were very scary. We were figuring out how to get out of the country. They had roadblocks on every road out of the country. They had doubled the guards at the border. The coast guard was monitoring the coast so we couldn't get out by boat.
So I came up with a plan. I have a double that I've had for many years that even has my name. I arranged to have him arrested in Mexico and he voluntarily did this. And then that was publicized in every radio station and newspaper in Belize. They took most of the guards on the southern border and sent them north. They sent the coast guard north. They abandoned the southern border and so I just crossed the southern border.
Sinovic: It sounds like something out of the Bourne Identity or a spy novel.
McAfee: My life is sort of weird. I don't back off from things, I think that's why.
Sinovic: But it seems that you like it that way.
McAfee: I don't like it that way. I like keeping quiet. I had keeping quiet for ten solid years. I didn't talk to the press. Nothing happened. I fished and enjoyed myself. But, you know, the government came down heavy and I didn't like that.
Sinovic: Fearless would you say?
McAfee: I do have fear. I'm not saying I didn't. I still had a lot of fear those last few days when we were escaping into Guatemala. I had Samantha to worry about. She was with me, although she's much braver than I am and she saved us a couple of times, especially since the Vice Magazine reporters were with us.
Sinovic: Is there anything you feel like you want people to know that you don't think they're getting?
McAfee: The biggest thing to communicate is the world is not like it seems. There's always something happening just underneath the surface. When people find this, nobody wants to believe it because it threatens the security and the normalcy of people's lives.
Sinovic: So you normally don't care what people think of you, but in this case you do care if they believe you.
McAfee: I care that they believe me. I don't care if they think I'm crazy or what. You have to believe me. It's true. I think the U.S. government knows about it. They have to know. If I know they have to know. Look at the resources they have. I'm one man, an old man, who is not very interested in doing what I'm doing. I'm doing it simply because I have to.
Sinovic: Are you paranoid?
McAfee: Do I look paranoid?
Sinovic: I don't know.
McAfee: I'm cautious, that's for sure. I'm still alive. I'm not afraid of much and in my mind I'm not thinking that there's a world conspiracy against me or anything. The world is a dangerous place. Is that paranoia? I don't think so.
Sinovic: Do you feel safe in Portland?
McAfee: I feel safer here than anywhere.
Sinovic: What is it about Portland that makes you feel safe?
McAfee: If anybody is after me, it will be the Zeta cartel, Hezbollah. I can't imagine Hezbollah showing up in Portland without being noticed. I mean, this doesn't look like a place where they would fit in. Or maybe they would. I do not know. And I'm farther away from any other place in America from where the problem is.