Even before the world knew him as a genius, the FBI had the book on Steve Jobs.
In a 1991 background check, the FBI pegged Apple’s co-founder as brash and unlikable and noted his early drug use.
Most tellingly, the agents, evaluating Jobs for an appointment under President George H.W. Bush, said acquaintances found him to have a peculiarly driven nature.
“Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs’s honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals,” according to the newly released FBI file.
One day, associates would famously call that quality a “reality distortion field.”
The agency amassed a lengthy and often unflattering dossier on Jobs, with more than 30 interviews of friends, neighbors, family, former business associates and Jobs himself. The investigation noted concerns from some that the then-head of NeXT was neglecting his daughter, born out of wedlock with his high school girlfriend, and other details popularized in the Jobs biography written last year by Walter Isaacson.
The business genius was a late bloomer, having graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif., with a 2.65 GPA. He admitted using marijuana and LSD while in college but appeared to have stopped using drugs at least five years before the report.
Those interviewed generally agreed that he was a strong business leader and would succeed in an appointment to Bush’s Export Council, even though some said they did not personally like him.
“They recommended him for a position of trust and responsibility,” according to the FBI files.
It would be five years until Apple bought NeXT and returned Jobs to its fold, and six years until he would be appointed the company’s interim chief executive.
The files were made public after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Wall Street Journal. The file is heavily redacted and does not reveal who the agency interviewed.
Apple and Jobs, notorious for their secrecy, were not particularly helpful to FBI officials, who complained that Jobs’s secretary made them wait three weeks to interview him.
The report also revealed that Jobs was the victim of a bomb threat in 1985.
According to a report included in the documents, an unidentified man called Apple from a public telephone, saying that “devices” had been placed at the homes of Jobs and others, and that a fourth device had been set up to explode if Apple called the authorities. The caller then demanded $1 million. Law enforcement officials swept the areas where the caller said he placed the bombs and found nothing. The investigation was eventually closed.
Apple declined to comment on the FBI report.