John McAfee? Been There, Done That

I’ve been following the sad story of 67-year-old John McAfee, who is, at this moment, in a Guatemalan jail. A story posted on the net a few hours ago says, “Software guru John McAfee wants to return to US.”

I feel for you, John.

The article quotes his wistful desire to “pack my bags and go to Miami” but nothing attributed to him says that he really knows what he is dealing with. That lack of insight may yet be his downfall.

Is he guilty of a crime? I do not know. His guilt or innocence has nothing to do with what I have to say right now.

More than 20 years ago, when I was almost 60 years old, I spent 3 and a half weeks in the military prison of another “tropical paradise.” I was not accused of murder – or any crime at all. My “offense” was that of a newspaper editor who had acquired documents exposing corruption in high places. The goal was to recover those docs (too late!!) and shut me up permanently while in prison.

It took a hunger strike and the support of four drug smugglers and a murderer to survive that ordeal, gain my freedom from that prison and avoid a highly credible assassination threat by a few hours.

I got home intact and only slightly insane.

My story is for another day. I might post it if someone one would register on this blog  and ask.

But McAfee is in play right now and I am afraid this is not going to turn out well for him.

For all of its faults, and despite the constant attacks on it, the American justice system, based on the concept of “innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers, and beyond a reasonable doubt” – and all the processes that support and protect the rights of an accused – are the best in the world.

Some systems come close, especially those of England, Canada, Australia and few others whose concepts are rooted in The Great Charter.  With minor exceptions and uneven application. there’s little to none of that anywhere else in this world.

Like John, I too learned that the hard way. There is no more depressing and frightening feeling in the world than sitting in a jail cell in a foreign country, realizing that you have no right to bail or Habeus Corpus or a lawyer or the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

All I have read, all he is quoted by the journalists traveling with him, are focused on his denials of guilt. That is exactly the wrong approach.

Talking to the press right now has no real upside for him and only continues the huge risk that he will say just one wrong thing – or worse yet – someone will claim he said it. If he says nothing, he can do himself no harm.

He should shut up and let a lawyer talk for him. The lawyer should be talking in terms of demanding rights, even if they are not spelled out in the laws of that country. Remember, just as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are claimed as inalienable, those enumerated in the Bill of Rights are not a gift from The State, but are natural rights inherent in the dignity of man.

Even in countries where they are suppressed and abused, those natural rights are understood. Only if he can embarrass the authorities in Belize and Guatemala so they respond in those terms, will he get whatever it is he deserves.

Trust me, John. Been there; done that.

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