Background check

Highlights of Steve Jobs' (heavily redacted) FBI file

February 9, 2012: 2:36 PM ET

We slogged through the 119-page document so you wouldn't have to

Jobs at NeXT. Source: TheStreet

In 1991, while Steve Jobs was at NeXT and before he returned to Apple (AAPL), the first President Bush considered him for an appointment on the White House's Export Council, triggering an FBI background check. [Update: The Commerce Department confirmed that Jobs did in fact serve on Bush's Export Council.]

In October 2011, MuckRock's Michael Morisy, a former journalist who has made a business of filing Freedom of Information Act requests, asked for copy of Jobs' secret file. On Thursday, the FBI posted a heavily redacted version. You can read it here.

Among the highlights that jumped out at us:

  • Repeated mentions of his past drug use, including LSD, and his mistreatment of Lisa, the daughter born out of wedlock whom he initially refused to support.
  • Repeated characterizations of him as someone who "twists the truth and distorts reality."
  • Two individuals [names omitted] described him as "strong willed, stubborn, hardworking and driven, which they believe is why he is successful."
  • "They further stated, however, that Mr. Jobs possesses integrity as long as he gets his way."
  • A woman who was reluctant to discuss Jobs because she had "questions regarding his ethics and morality" described him as a visionary, charismatic but narcissistic individual who was "shallow and callous to people in his personal relationships."
  • In his interview with the FBI -- which he postponed for at least three weeks -- Jobs said he had traveled to the Soviet Union but was not a member of the Communist Party or any organization advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. He was a member of the New York Athletic Club, but had never been there.
  • Jobs was the target of a bomb threat in February 1985, during his last months at Apple. Someone called the company demanding $1 million and threatening to detonate "devices" that had allegedly been placed in several homes, including Jobs'. Jobs refused to pay and no bombs exploded. (Thanks to reader Carlos Alberto Teixeira for spotting the report on p. 184.)
  • The FBI noted that Jobs graduated from Homestead High with a grade point average of 2.65 on a 4.0 scale.

Overall, not a flattering picture, but nothing we haven't heard before.

The biggest surprise: As near as we can tell, every one of the more than three dozen people interviewed by the FBI concluded -- no matter how dishonest, immoral or narcissistic they saw him -- that they would nonetheless recommend him "for a position of trust and confidence with the Government."

If you spot something juicy that we missed, let us know and we'll add it to the list (with credit, of course.)

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