We talk with eccentric millionaire, cybersecurity expert and persona non grata John McAfee about conspiracies, tax evasion and that infamous Russian roulette story.

On The Run with John McAfee

When our Skype call connects, I see John McAfee sitting in a soundproofed room. He’s been a fugitive, on the run from the American government, for nearly a year. But he hasn’t let that diminish his spirit. McAfee, 74, is in great shape for his age, and his energy levels are those of a much younger man.

During our interview, I learn other people are in the room, sitting off-camera. They’re his wife, Janice McAfee, and Amy Emshwiller — one of his girlfriends, a former sex worker from Belize, who has admitted to attempting to kill McAfee, more than once. They must have patched things up, because following the tech millionaire around the world as he eludes the long arm of the U.S. government is no small commitment.

Since leaving American soil in 2019, McAfee’s been forced to flee the Bahamas, Cuba and the Dominican Republic — where he says the jails are not nearly as good as Mexican jails, which he tells me he loves — all before his boat was confiscated and authorities shipped him away to sunny England. After which, he tells me, he went underground, hiding his location from even his closest friends and family.

Our conversation starts here.

Are you still on the run from the U.S. government?

Yeah, I’m still on the run.

So what’s the story there?

I haven’t paid taxes for 11 years. I refuse. In America, our constitution explicitly forbids it. We had no federal income taxes in America until 1913, when they imposed a 33 percent income tax to help fund World War I, as an emergency measure to be repealed after the war.

I’ve already paid over $50 million in taxes. I have not, I promise you, received $50 million in services.

Two years ago, though, I started talking on international stages. London, Bucharest, Hong Kong, Malta — all over — telling people, “If you don’t want to pay taxes, here’s how you do it. You’d use privacy cryptocurrency and distributed exchanges, decentralized exchanges.” And nobody, no one, not in any government will ever know anything about your finances, providing you buy everything with crypto and you get paid in crypto.

That’s when the U.S. government decided I’d gone too far. They charged both my wife and I, in January of last year, 2019, with tax fraud.

We’ve been underground since July 17th of last year. That’s almost a year now. We’ve been gone a mighty long time.

Happy underground anniversary. Being on the run has put an end to your presidential ambitions, but given what you learned on the campaign trail, what advice would you give to the Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigns for this year’s election?

Presidents are pretty much powerless to do what they want. Look at what happens even when [Barack] Obama, through a lot of hard work, four years of his time, tried to create Obamacare. We all knew it would be dismantled, and it was.

Nothing can change in America without the deep state changing it. But no one’s running the deep state. It’s a disparate bunch of government departments with people who’ve been there for 50 fucking years. Here’s the problem in America. Trump’s probably going, “Fuck it. Why did I waste my time?”

And besides, I would also advise, if you really want to do something for the good of America, simply let Biden win, because I actually think an America where the president wakes up every day and goes, “Who am I, sweetheart?”

“Oh, you’re Joe Biden. You’re the president.”

“The president? Of what, sweetheart?”

“Of America.”

“Oh, really?”

I think that would be far better. How much damage can that motherfucker do? I’m serious.

You’re renowned on social media for having some of the most interesting hot takes regarding conspiracies and current affairs. Let’s run through a few major news stories, and you tell me what you think. First, Jeffrey Epstein…

There’s obviously a fucking conspiracy there. If you define conspiracy as more than a few people wanting him dead and managing to make it happen.

Good God almighty, everybody knows that he was strangled by his cellmate, Nicholas Tartaglione.

And so, we know it goes as high as the warden. Beyond that, I mean even me, John McAfee, cannot go higher than that. And I wish I could.

What about 5G technology? There’s a lot of conspiracy talk around that.

I’m not a doctor, but it is microwave radiation, you have to admit. Put something in the microwave oven and turn it on and see what happens to it. That’s 5G, people. Now, admittedly, it’s a much, much, much lower power. However, it’s for the rest of your fucking life. Not just for two minutes at a super high power, it’s maybe 50 fucking years at a very low power. Nobody knows what that’s going to do. I don’t know what it’s going to do.

I do know this: It’s going to locate your sorry ass within 10 inches or locate your phone within 10 inches. You’re not going to escape anybody with 5G.

What about pedophile rings operating out of Washington, D.C., pizza stores? Sounds crazy, but does it hold any water?

Hang on. You’re talking to a man who’s already in hiding from the IRS and their long fucking arm. You want me to piss off some super powerful people? I have no intention of doing so. Next question, my friend.

What about vaccines and Bill Gates? Because Gates gets a lot of hate these days, but he seems like an all right guy.

I’ve only met Bill one time, and that was 1985. And in all of my existence of 74 fucking years, I’ve never met a more boring individual. To the point that if you said, “Mr. McAfee, you have the choice of having dinner with Bill Gates or driving this 10-penny nail through your foot.” I’d say, “Give me the goddamn nail and hammer.”

Now Bill Gates, it’s pretty well known and it’s probably a true fact that he founded and ran one of the largest computer and software companies on the face of the planet. From my own experiences running businesses, the only way you can survive is through deception and disinformation as far as what your plans are for the future.

No conversation with John McAfee would be complete without talking a bit about computer viruses. How do you think the culture around viruses has changed over the years?

We don’t really have viruses. Number one, you can’t make any money. I mean, there are programs that lock down your computer and demand money. Ransomware, that’s a virus. But beyond that, there’s no money in it.

No, the entire world of hacking has changed from writing damaging code to designing damaging social engineering paradigms.

What do you mean by “social engineering paradigms?”

Let me give an example. One of my best friends, well-known, I don’t know if I can say his name, but he hires himself and his team out to corporations and government agencies to stress-test their systems.

Some years ago, he was hired by America’s largest electricity provider on the eastern seaboard.

In any case, obviously it’s in America’s political interest that people don’t fuck with electricity providers. So they were hired to try to break into their master control.

First thing he did, he drove around, hired a helicopter, took a look at the terrain. Drove around access roads, dirt roads, whatever, and then he picked a hill about a quarter of a mile from the main gate of the compound, got himself some people, telescopes and cameras, and things necessary for actually taking a photo of the entry gates with absolute clarity from a quarter of a mile.

After a month, he noticed something. He knows that every Thursday, about 50 trucks come through. Old, some of them beat up with lawnmowers and trimming gear, electric sheers and all sorts of shit in the truck beds. And he noticed one thing: Only the first truck would send their paperwork to the guards. And the paperwork, it actually had the number of trucks on it, and so on and so forth. But there were sometimes 50. The guard, after taking the paperwork, ignored the trucks.

My friend went out and bought a beat-up truck, got a bunch of used lawnmowers and uniforms that matched, because they all had these same shabby uniforms.

About a mile away, the convoy had to come around the curve, and there was an adjacent road that intersected with the main road. So he parked there, waited until about 15 trucks came by and bullied his way in. He gets through the gate, parks where everybody else is parked, and all the people are looking at him, but half of them are illegal Mexicans and, listen, nobody wants to get involved. OK. They went about their business.

They take off their coats, and underneath they’ve got three-piece suits, ties, the whole thing. In his hand is a letter that has on it, “Audit Authorization Letter on General Miller.”

So why did he choose the audit? Because the audit authorization letter is one of the tried and true social engineering tools. Why? You present it, the last thing in their mind is, “Are you real?” The first thing in their mind is, “Good God, did I install the latest version I was supposed to install?” Everybody’s panicked, fucking panicked.

So now at the bottom, they had the general’s signature and two phone numbers to call, just in case. He had operators standing by on these numbers, very professional. And had they called, they would have said, “Yes, General Miller demands that you give full cooperation.” But they never even bothered to call. The security saw the letter, and from then on, my friend and his team were gods.

So, they went to the manager’s office and announced themselves, “I have an authorization letter.” And then said, “And please, we want no one watching what we’re doing, and we want access to everything.” And they did have access, except to the main computer.

Now, the social engineers are also the best lock pickers on the planet. They all have lock-picking gear. My friend is down on his knees, picking the lock to the main computer room, and the security guard comes around. My friend jumps up and says, “You. Here, come here.” They were wearing suits; they’re clearly management, right? “We got a call about this lock. Have you had problems with this thing?” He goes, “No, I don’t know anything about it.” He says, “It keeps getting stuck is what we hear. Open this for us.” And he goes, “No, it works fine, sir.” My friend replies, “OK, you can leave.”

They go inside, they bug-test, they take photographs to prove they got in, because no one’s going to believe this, right? Because no one can get into the most secure fucking facility on the East Coast. Nobody. Social engineers can. This is how social engineers work. Now, imagine how much more fun that is, than spending tedious hours writing some fucking computer code.

Hollywood is making a movie about the Wired article that covered your infamous Belize period. I know you say a lot of the story isn’t true but —

No, no, no. I didn’t say anything about that. Nothing about the Wired story. There’s a difference between the Gringo movie that was put out by my archenemy and the Wired piece that was done by Joshua Davis. I didn’t think there was anything untrue about that at all. But let me tell you what happened.

OK, so Wired magazine called me and asked if I’d be willing to have one of their reporters come down and actually live with me for a couple of weeks to write up a big story. I said, “Well, this ought to be fun. Yes. Sure.” And I gave Josh Davis an entire week. I mean, wow, did they send the wrong dude. I mean, he was so out of his fucking comfort zone.

On the second day, for example, I said, “OK, well, I’ve got to put up with this motherfucking guy.” And the big thing about this story, which everybody talks about, is the gun incident, the Russian roulette.

First of all, sleight of hand and magic for kids and things, I enjoy doing that. I’ve been doing it for 55 years. Here’s what I did: I took a bullet and fired it so that the firing cap had detonated already. I then take the bullet itself, put it in the shell so it was just like a real bullet, with the exception if you’re looking closely, you can see the indentation in the cap.

We were sitting at the dining room table in my San Pedro beach house. We were just talking and shit, and while we’re talking, I pull my gun out. He’d never even seen a handgun before. I open it, and I’m still talking, and I’m saying, “Yes. The difficult thing in the jungle,” and I’m emptying the shells on the table. And he’s looking. “The difficult thing was trying to get all of the people together to actually do the work, and they’re so lazy out there.” And I take one of the bullets, I put it back in the gun, it’s the one that’s already been fired, there’s no powder in it. It cannot fire. I spin it and close it, and while I’m still talking, I go, “And the other thing, in Orange Walk, the mayor…” Click.

So, now he jumps up, knocking his chair over, and he’s going crazy. And I go, “What’s the matter?” And so I spun it again, and I went click. Now he’s panicked. He involuntarily jumps back against the wall, he says, “What are you doing?” I go, “Nothing.”

“You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do this,” he says.

So finally, I just spun it, and I went: click, click, click. By now, he’s totally freaking out. He’s looking around. “Is there help? Somebody help, I don’t know what’s going to happen. He’s going to shoot me.” So then I said, “Calm down, calm down, calm down. Let me show you something.” And in the meantime, since he’s panicked, he’s paying no goddamn attention. I’ve taken out the dud and put in a live shell while he’s not watching, one of my sleight of hand things. So, “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK. Josh, it’s OK. Come with me outside. It’s OK. I’ll stop.

I’ll stop.”

I then take the gun, point it at the sand, I go, boom. Sand flies everywhere. “See how lucky that was?”

Now, he was too stupid to figure out, “Goddamn, that was a clever trick.” Because most people they go, “How did you do that?” But not him. No. So he makes this the central point of the whole fucking story about how crazy John is.

I fucked with him the entire time he was with me to the point that when he left, he was just a pool of jelly. He did not know what was up, down, left or fucking right. Why? He’s the media, my son. Had he been remotely honest with me or himself, we might’ve had some fun, but no. OK. So let me show you what happens when you waste my fucking time.

That’s all we got from John McAfee himself, but should you wish more, we helpfully direct you to the Wired Magazine article. Other fascinating interviews appear within these pages, also helpfully. All in all, we’re really very helpful.

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