John McAfee on Running for President and the Coming Cyberwar

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John McAfee, anti-virus software guru, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Guatemala City in 2012. McAfee is now running for president. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

John McAfee did not miss a beat when asked if the time he hid in the Guatemalan jungle for a month for being linked to a murder of his neighbor, or the time he spent two days this year in jail for driving under the influence with a shotgun made him a suitable person for president of the United States. To McAfee, nobody—including himself—in the 2016 presidential race was ready for the White House, but McAfee says he is the best America’s got.

The 70-year-old McAfee, the creator of the multibillion-dollar anti-virus program which he recently disowned and erstwhile fugitive, recently announced he was entering the presidential race for the nomination of the Libertarian Party. He won't be out in the campaign trail, though; he will be running a purely electronic campaign with regular fireside webcam chats from his seclusive home in rural Tennessee to keep in touch with his supporters.

He initially ran as a candidate for the self-created Cyber Party but jumped ship to the larger Libertarian Party for “practicality.” Unlike, say, Harvard professor Larry Lessig who ran as a fringe candidate to highlight a certain issue, McAfee believes he has a chance—despite his past history as a mercurial millionaire playboy on the run from governments.

“I am not a perfect person,” McAfee tells Newsweek. “But I once ran a multibillion-dollar corporation. I have lived around the world, including in Third World dictatorships like Belize, and [I] know the world.”

His narrative for what happened in his fugitive days in Belize strays from what has been reported in the United States: He declined to make a $2 million political donation to the Belizean ruling party, and was subsequently raided by a Belizean gang,  who shot his dogs. Then the government called to question him for a murder of his neighbor that he says was done to bully McAfee for money. That’s when he decided to flee—and when he says the falsehoods started flurrying in the press.

“People who read the Belizean newspapers know the truth,” McAfee says. “In Belize, it is legal to hold people for questioning in prisons for 15 years. Perhaps I should have made the donation. But the U.S. media knew that ‘man on the hunt for murder’ would sell headlines, so they made up stories.”

It’s easy to connect McAfee to another outspoken millionaire and current Republican Party front-runner Donald Trump. But McAfee would not comment on any candidates.“I never met him. I never played golf with him, so I think it’s fair to answer anything about him,” McAfee says. But he had plenty to say about Washington as a whole, calling it an overbloated, bureaucratic mess unready for a World War III–esque cyberwar against China and Russia.

“We have a cyberwar looming on the horizon,” McAfee says. “China has walked off with 20 million records of every U.S. government employee in the past 50 years. We are still in the Stone Age. It is a travesty to this country.”

McAfee, however, had a different tone toward the threat of Islamic extremism, the warfront many presidential candidates labeled as the primary threat to America. McAfee preaches open borders for immigrants and calls on the United States to disengage completely from the Middle East.

“You would also feel helpless and angry if a drone in the sky that you cannot spot was dropping bombs on your family and friends,” McAfee says. “If we stop interfering in the region, the anger will subside.”

External threats included, the biggest threat of all to America though was the American government itself, McAfee repeatedly said, sticking to his libertarian beliefs. The TSA, FBI, IRS and even Social Security needed to be either abandoned or drastically reduced and privatized to reduce the debt and get the wheels in Washington turning again.

But as a longtime computer developer and an inextricable part of the history of the Internet, McAfee felt the strongest over privacy and government surveillance. He believed privacy was the foundation for a sane society, and surveillance would be the erosion that leads the country into chaos and dictatorship.

“Companies like Google say, ‘If you got nothing to hide, you got nothing to fear,’” McAfee says. “That’s exactly what Hitler’s SS used to tell its citizens.”