QVerity Analysis Finds High Level of Deception in McAfee Interview
On May 23, Alicia Menendez of the Huffington Post conducted an interview via webcam with John McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company that bears his name, who in the past year has been mired in controversy. McAfee fled his home in Belize after government authorities there sought to question him about the Nov. 11, 2012, murder of his neighbor, Gregory Faull. QVerity has conducted a behavioral analysis of the interview, and has found a high level of deception exhibited by McAfee. Collectively, his deceptive behaviors indicate the high likelihood that McAfee was involved in Faull’s death, and that he has little or no information to offer to the contrary. The high volume of attack behaviors we observed reflects a desperation and a last-resort mentality, which are indicative of McAfee’s fear that he is out of options, that the authorities may be closing in on him, and that he will be apprehended—possibly sooner rather than later.
We observed a significant number of large clusters of verbal and non-verbal deceptive indicators throughout the 14.5-minute interview. Non-verbally, especially revealing was that there was a preponderance of hand-to-face activity exhibited in nearly all of McAfee’s responses. This activity is indicative of a spike in anxiety, which prompts the fight-or-flight response: The autonomic nervous system reroutes circulation from blood-rich regions of the body to the vital organs and major muscle groups to prepare the body to respond to the perceived threat. This irritates the capillaries in those regions, typically the face and head area, and the person will touch those areas without thinking about it.
While references to drug use are common, though as yet unsubstantiated, in reports about McAfee’s lifestyle, and while this type of hand-to-face activity is common among drug users, it should be noted that there was no hand-to-face activity whatsoever until 2:40 into the interview, when McAfee began speaking about the Belizean authorities’ investigation of the death of Gregory Faull.
The first cluster of deceptive behaviors was exhibited in response to Menendez’s request for McAfee to recap what had happened that resulted in his having fled Belize. In his response, McAfee spoke of what he claimed was a campaign of intimidation by the government to persuade him to "donate" $2 million. He said he refused, which was his first mistake, and he continued:
I then went to the international press—The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, whoever would listen to me, and said look, this is not right, there’s something bizarre going on. [hand to face] That was mistake No. 2. That pissed everybody off—the prime minister, the government, the police—and they began a program of harassment, ending with the death of my neighbor, [for] which they conveniently [two throat-clearing coughs] tried to finger me. They didn’t at any time say that I killed the man or that I had anything to do with it—they wanted to question me as a neighbor.
The response contained a significant cluster of deceptive behaviors:
- McAfee’s statement that the government "conveniently tried to finger" him for the murder is a verbal attack behavior. A deceptive person often engages in aggression or attack behavior if he feels cornered by the question, especially when the stakes are high. This is a critical or hostile attempt to put the questioner on the defensive, or to shift the blame elsewhere. The fact that it appears so early in his remarks is indicative of an urgent desire to redirect the focus of the authorities and get the spotlight off of himself.
- In the midst of his statement about the government having tried to finger him for the murder, McAfee made two throat-clearing coughs. This type of significant throat-clearing is a deceptive indicator that can stem from a spike in anxiety that causes dryness in the throat, or it can be an instance of "dressing up the lie" to convey it in a more presentable manner.
- A deceptive verbal behavior was exhibited here in the form of an inconsistent statement: Within the same breath of his claim that the government authorities "conveniently tried to finger" him for the murder, he stated, "They didn’t at any time say that I killed the man or that I had anything to do with it." His inconsistent statement reflects the internal conflict between trying to convince us that he is not a suspect, and the concern that the authorities are likely closing in on him.
Menendez shortly thereafter asked the "did you do it" question. She said she was going to clear the air and ask the question that he had been asked before: She asked him if he killed Greg Faull.
In response, McAfee smiled. Smiling or laughing in response to a serious question is a deceptive non-verbal behavior that falls into the category of what we call an inappropriate level of concern. It is indicative of a dismissive attitude towards the questioner, an effort to get the questioner to back off or become less aggressive by conveying to her and to the public that her pursuit of this issue is overzealous and unwarranted. McAfee then opened his response with this assertion:
No, I have never killed anyone. [hand to chin] It’s not my style. People who know me [know] I’m probably the most easygoing person in the world.
These statements contained another cluster of deceptive behaviors:
- "I have never killed anyone" is an example of what we call a non-specific denial. That non-specificity, rather than stating "I didn’t kill Greg Faull," makes it easier psychologically for a deceptive person to convey. McAfee's deceptive behavior indicates the likelihood that he is involved in the death of his neighbor. That being the case, telling the direct lie is difficult, so he instead waters down his denial—again, because it is a psychologically easier path to take.
- Hand-to-face activity.
- "People who know me [know] I’m probably the most easygoing person in the world" is an example of a deceptive verbal behavior we call a convincing statement. A convincing statement is one that is a made in an attempt to influence or manipulate perception rather than convey the information the questioner is seeking.
In addition, we have an unintended message in the form of the statement, "It’s not my style." Deceptive people often betray themselves without realizing it by conveying unintended messages that can be identified by focusing on the literalness of what is being said. Here, by stating that killing people is "not my style," the unintended message appears to be, "It’s not a matter of murder being unacceptable, it’s just that it’s not the way I normally take care of business."
McAfee continued his response:
It's true that the night before his death [hand to forehead] seven of my dogs were poisoned, but so were many of my neighbors' dogs. And he was the last person to come to mind. What came to my mind was the government, and their constant harassment. They’d already shot one of my dogs, destroyed property, tried intimidation, so why not poison more of my dogs in order to harass me? [hand to face] Greg Faull never came to mind. Belize, if you look it up, is the murder [hand to face] capital of the world—it has the highest murder rate of any country. People are killed all the time. It’s a poor country, but it's also a heavily-armed country. So people come with money [hand to face] and they become targets. So I do not know who killed Mr. Faull. It was certainly not me, and I had nothing to do with it. The government, however, took that opportunity to go, "Great, now we can at least put him in jail for 60 days while we trump up charges against him."
Again, we have a significant cluster of deceptive behaviors:
- Hand-to-face activity: Four instances, indicative of a high degree of anxiety regarding Faull’s murder.
- Attack behavior: "What came to my mind was the government, and their constant harassment. They’d already shot one of my dogs, destroyed property, tried intimidation, so why not poison more of my dogs in order to harass me? … Belize, if you look it up, is the murder capital of the world—it has the highest murder rate of any country. People are killed all the time. It’s a poor country, but it’s also a heavily-armed country. So people come with money and they become targets. … The government, however, took that opportunity to go, 'Great, now we can at least put him in jail for 60 days while we trump up charges against him.'" Here, McAfee is attacking everyone he can think of, to include both the government and the country itself—there are 13 attack statements in his response. This extraordinarily high volume of deceptive behaviors gives us a very high level of confidence that McAfee is not telling the truth. It reflects his concern that he has no information that will keep his involvement in this matter from ultimately being exposed, and that he is rapidly reaching the end of his rope.
Menendez went on to ask McAfee if he had any suspicions as to who killed Gregory Faull. Here is the key portion of his response:
There could be anything, but No. 1, [hand to nose] robbery … And the police did not charge me, [hand to nose] they didn’t even suggest that I was responsible [hand to nose]. That story got out because a gentleman named Jeff Wise erroneously published an article in The New York Times saying I was the prime suspect. Not true. Never was.
Once again, we have a cluster of deceptive behaviors:
- Hand-to-face activity (multiple instances).
- McAfee’s reference to Jeff Wise as a "gentleman" despite clearly feeling animosity towards him is an example of what we call an inappropriate level of politeness. This is a deceptive behavior that aims to manipulate perception—in this case, that McAfee is the type of person who is respectful of even those who harm him.
- Attack behavior: "Jeff Wise erroneously published an article in The New York Times saying I was the prime suspect. Not true. Never was." McAfee is inferring that, at minimum, Wise is wrong in his assertions, or worse, he is lying.
In addition, we have an unintended message in the form of the statement, "And the police did not charge me, they didn’t even suggest that I was responsible." Here the unintended message appears to be, "I’m not responsible for the murder, not because I didn’t commit it, but because the police haven’t charged me or said I was responsible."
Menendez then pointed out that some people believe McAfee got away with murder because of his wealth and his American citizenship, and she asked him how he would respond to those people. His response:
[Hand to forehead] My response is nothing. You may believe what you wish to believe. You ask me questions and I answer them. You read the news—at no point does Belize think I murdered him. Even the latest reports—it was in USA Today just last week—they said no, he’s not charged with murder, we merely want him to question him as a neighbor. You can believe what you wish, but I have nothing to do with it—I’ve never been charged with it. The press has convicted me—they convicted me that first day by calling me a prime suspect—erroneous reporting.
We have yet another cluster of deceptive behaviors:
- Hand-to-face activity.
- When McAfee replied, "My response is nothing," he exhibited the deceptive behavior we call refusal to answer. Whereas truthful people are eager to tell a questioner they didn’t do whatever negative act they're being questioned about, deceptive people sometimes decline to answer, an indication that the facts are not their ally. This statement also conveys an extremely significant unintended message. A truthful person would likely have responded, "I didn't get away with murder—I didn't do it." McAfee’s likely unintended message is that the real story and the facts of the case, which he cannot go into, are not his ally, and are ultimately damning.
- Inconsistent statement: McAfee followed his statement, "My response is nothing" with the inconsistency, "You ask me questions and I answer them."
- Attack behavior: "The press has convicted me—they convicted me that first day by calling me a prime suspect—erroneous reporting."
Later in the interview, Menendez referred to Allison Adonisio, a former business partner at QuorumEx, the venture McAfee started in Belize to produce natural antibiotics. Menendez noted that Adonisio had said that McAfee was "controlling, manipulative, and dangerous," and that she had said, "I’m thankful that I got out with my life." Menendez asked McAfee how he would respond to her, and got this in response:
[Smiling] OK, so Allison and I [hand to face] had a breaking up of partnership over the fact that she wanted to get paid in advance of the company making money. … Allison herself I think needs psychiatric help. [hand to face] She turned into a crazy woman [hand to face] when I refused to pay her upfront [hand to forehead] what the company should be getting in investment capital. … She was a crazy woman. She acts sane, but she is not.
This matter appeared to be one of particular concern to McAfee, as the cluster of deceptive behaviors was especially large:
- The fact that McAfee did not refute Adonisio’s claim that he was controlling, manipulative, and dangerous, and that she had reason to be thankful she got out with her life, is a deceptive behavior we call failure to deny. It is another indication that the facts are not the deceptive person’s ally.
- Inappropriate level of concern: Smiling.
- Hand-to-face activity (multiple instances).
- Attack behavior: "Allison herself I think needs psychiatric help. She turned into a crazy woman when I refused to pay her upfront what the company should be getting in investment capital. … She was a crazy woman. She acts sane, but she is not." These attacks are employed in lieu of any factual information to refute the idea that McAfee would kill anyone, or, more specifically, that he was involved in the murder of his neighbor.
Menendez also addressed the drug issue, referring to the fact that many people have suggested that McAfee is under the influence of drugs or other substances. She noted that McAfee has refuted those claims, so she asked him what it is about his behavior that begs those questions. His response:
Um, No. 1, I sleep very little. I’ve always slept very little. I have a very high-energy personality. The drugs they claim I am on, think about it. At one point they say I’m a wealthy man, and at the other point, I’m going to get on the cheapest drugs in the world, that are the worst drugs? Bath salts? No, a pound of cocaine is like a couple hundred dollars, pure cut. If I’m going to do drugs, I’m going to do [hand to face] something good rather than pay money for something bad. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Yet again, we have a significant cluster of deceptive behaviors:
- McAfee’s response was preceded by a behavioral pause, a deceptive behavior that’s employed as a means of buying time to formulate an acceptable response when the facts are not a person’s ally.
- Inconsistent statement: McAfee’s statement, "I have a very high-energy personality" is inconsistent with his earlier statement, "People who know me [know] I’m probably the most easygoing person in the world."
- Convincing statements: "The drugs they claim I am on, think about it. At one point they say I’m a wealthy man, and at the other point, I’m going to get on the cheapest drugs in the world, that are the worst drugs? Bath salts? … It doesn’t make any sense to me."
- Hand-to-face activity.
- Failure to deny: McAfee stated that if he were to do drugs, he would do something good rather than pay money for something bad. At no point did he deny using drugs.