Hire Wire Feb 09 2012

What The FBI Had On Steve Jobs

By joseph walker

You've heard about things going on your permanent record? Steve Jobs had one, too.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday made public a background check on the Apple co-founder that took place in 1991. The agency assembled the investigation because Mr. Jobs was being considered for a presidential appointment by George H.W. Bush to the President's Export Council, which advises on international trade. Mr. Jobs was appointed to the position that year.

The Wall Street Journal/FINS.com requested the file through the Freedom of Information Act.

In the 191-page document, friends and associates describe him as profoundly talented, creative and hardworking. But his many faults are also acknowledged including the fact that he neglected his daughter for the first several years of his life and that his management techniques were considered by many to be abusive.

Two individuals, who were acquainted with Mr. Jobs, said he was "strong willed, stubborn, hardworking and driven, which they believe is why he is so successful."

Another source said she was reluctant to discuss Mr. Jobs, because she had "questions concerning his ethics and morality." The woman, who said that she and Jobs had "experimented" with drugs together in the past, also described him as "shallow and callous." His success as head of Apple, she said, had given him an "enormous amount of power" and "caused him to distort the truth at times to get his way." Despite this, she recommended him for the government position.

A Palo Alto, Calif.-based man who identifies himself as a former "good friend" of Mr. Jobs said that while he was "basically an honest and trustworthy person, he is a very complex individual and his moral character is suspect." Mr. Jobs "alienated a large number of people at Apple, as a result of his ambition."

The file also reveals that Jobs received top secret security clearance from the Department of Defense for work he was doing in connection with Pixar. The clearance was effective between November 1988 and July 1990. It's unclear why Jobs was given the clearance.

The question of whether Mr. Jobs, who had admitted to drug use in his youth, still used drugs while at Apple comes up frequently in the file. It appears nearly everyone interviewed believed he no longer used drugs.

An interview subject from International Business Machines said that he never "witnessed any illegal drug usage or alcohol abuse by the appointee" and said Mr. Jobs "seemingly lives within his financial means and he never witnessed any examples of an extravagant lifestyle having been practiced by Jobs."

An unnamed female source said Mr. Jobs "drank only a little wine and did not use any kind of illegal drugs." However, "in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Jobs may have experimented with illegal drugs, having come from that generation," the report says.

Other aspects of the Steve Jobs narrative are referenced in the file, including his pilgrimage to India and his resulting interest in Eastern religion. One person whose name is redacted says that Mr. Jobs "had undergone a change in philosophy by participating in eastern and/or Indian mysticism and religion. This change apparently influenced the Appointee's personal life for the better."

The person suggests that Mr. Jobs' apathy toward money and material possessions were manifest in the early 1990s when the investigation was conducted. Mr. Jobs lived a "spartanlike and at times even monastic existence," the person told investigators.

Read the full document here.

Joseph Walker of FINS talks about the FBI file on Steve Jobs.

Write to Joseph Walker at joseph.walker@dowjones.com



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