Apple's Steve Jobs FBI File Contains Zero Surprises

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-02-11 Print this article Print

Apple CEO Steve Jobs' FBI file, compiled in 1991 as part of a background check, contains no surprises for anyone who knew his history.

The contents of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs€™ FBI file is out in public view, and reveals absolutely nothing startling to those who read Walter Isaacson€™s recent biography.

In 1991, the FBI conducted a background check on Jobs at the request of the White House, which was considering him for a political appointment. The final report features interviews with more than 35 people who knew him.

Before his death in October 2011, Jobs was alternately praised as a groundbreaking chief executive with an outsized influence on the tech industry, and condemned by some for a reportedly take-no-prisoners management style. The FBI€™s research reinforces both those views: interview subjects (their names uniformly redacted) refer to him as industrious and dedicated to his work, while also citing his behavior as, in the words of one, €œalienating.€

In one much-quoted section of the report, an unnamed source characterizes Jobs as €œa deceptive individual who is not completely forthright and honest,€ as well as one who will €œtwist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.€ That same source alluded to reports of drug use by Jobs during college.

Nonetheless, the unnamed sources quoted throughout the report generally seem to recommend Jobs for €œa position of trust and confidence€ within the federal government. Several allude to his work ethic, including two individuals who €œstated that [Jobs] is strongwilled [sic], stubborn, hardworking and driven.€

Isaacson€™s biography€”which quickly became a bestseller after its release in late 2011€”painted a complicated portrait of Jobs as someone more than capable of shredding those who displeased him, while also displaying flashes of empathy. €œI was hard on people sometimes, probably harder than I needed to be,€ he€™s quoted as saying near the end of the book. €œBut somebody€™s got to do it.€

Isaacson quotes a number of figures throughout the biography who discuss their relationship with Jobs€”product designer Jonathan Ive and his slightly spurned take on Jobs€™ fame is particularly fascinating€”but few offer startling insight beyond the personality already well-established in the public eye. 

Despite Jobs€™ passing, Apple continues to bear the imprint of his long reign: given the long development processes at tech companies, the next iPad and iPhone (reportedly due later in 2012) were almost certainly developed under his watch.

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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