The Korea Herald


FBI background file has mixed reviews of Steve Jobs

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 15, 2012 - 20:23

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SAN JOSE, California ― He had smoked pot and dropped LSD. He could be a pain to work with. He twisted the truth at times.

Yet according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation background file released Thursday, former Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs would still have made a fine presidential appointee.

The 1991 background check was conducted when then-President George H. W. Bush was considering Jobs for a spot on the President’s Export Council, a position he did not get. And while the file contains little information about Jobs not already made public, the interviews conducted when Jobs first left Apple to start his own company provide a fresh and at times humorous sketch of the tech icon who died of cancer last fall.

One interview subject told the FBI about Jobs’ previous drug use and his tendency to “twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.” Several interview subjects, all of whom had their names redacted in the file, told agents that Jobs’ ethics could bend depending on the situation. One subject “characterized Mr. Jobs as a deceptive individual who is not completely forthright and honest.”
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (Los Angeles Times/MCT) Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

And in a clear nod to Jobs’ notorious arrogance in dealing with other people, two former Apple employees said he “has integrity as long as he gets his way.”

Still, even friends and co-workers who said Jobs would often blur the line between truth and fiction told the FBI that Bush should appoint him to the Council, which serves as the national advisory committee on international trade. One person went so far as to say that while Jobs was dishonest at times, he didn’t think that honesty and integrity were required qualities for a high-level political position and therefore recommended Jobs “for a position of trust and confidence with the Government.”

Jobs’ use of illicit drugs as a young man ― about which he had often spoken publicly and which was further described in Walter Isaacson’s recent biography ― is laid out in great detail in the file. Jobs himself told the investigating agents that he “experimented with marijuana, hashish and LSD” from 1970 to 1974, but said he had not taken any illegal drugs for five years.

One woman who apparently had known Jobs since they were young admitted to experimenting with different drugs with Jobs, but she said that he had become health-conscious by 1991 “and rarely even drinks but will occasionally have wine socially.”

While pointing out that the file contains little new or startling information, analyst Roger Kay with Endpoint Technologies Associates says the numerous references to drug use serve to remind us that Jobs was a product of a generation in which many considered experimentation with LSD and marijuana to be a potentially consciousness-raising experience.

“While there were some bad outcomes for some people who took drugs,” said Kay, “the theory was that if you had this one dharma moment where everything opened up and you then spent the rest of your life working on that but without drugs, then that would be a good thing.”

Jobs obviously would have agreed.

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life,” he told biographer Isaacson. “LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it.”

The 191-page report, which included details of an alleged bomb threat against Jobs, says one female acquaintance “stated that his success at Apple which provided an enormous amount of power for the Appointee also caused him at times to lose sight of honesty and integrity and even caused him to distort the truth at times to get his way.”

In a curious detail, the file reveals that Jobs had a top secret security clearance with the U.S. government. He received it in 1988, and it was terminated in 1990. The file isn’t clear about why he may have needed the clearance, but the “employing agency” associated with it was Pixar, the animation studio Jobs bought in 1986 and sold to Disney in 2006.

The mixed feelings of admiration and contempt that many people felt about Jobs come through in the report. One Palo Alto, Calif., man who identifies himself as a former “good friend” said that while Jobs was “basically an honest and trustworthy person, he is a very complex individual and his moral character is suspect.”

Jobs, the man told the FBI, “alienated a large number of people at Apple, as a result of his ambition.”

By Patrick May

(San Jose Mercury )
(MCT Information Services)