An FBI file on Steve Jobs, compiled in 1991 as part of a background check, depicts the deceased Apple chief as a driven individual willing to ‘twist the truth and distort reality’
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.
Praise and scorn
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 behaviour as, in the words of one, “alienating”.
In one much-quoted section of the report, an unnamed source characterises Jobs as “a deceptive individual who is not completely forthright and honest”, as well as one who will “twist 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 “a position of trust and confidence” within the federal government. Several allude to his work ethic, including two individuals who “stated that [Jobs] is strongwilled [sic], stubborn, hardworking and driven”.
Aggression and empathy
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.
“I was hard on people sometimes, probably harder than I needed to be,” he’s quoted as saying near the end of the book. “But 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.