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Steve Jobs' FBI File Reveals People Who Knew Him Had A Mixed Opinion Of Him

Steve Jobs.
Jeff Chiu
Steve Jobs.

The FBI has released the files it kept on Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. The 191-pages are part of a background search the FBI undertook in order to clear him for an appointment made to the President's Export Council by George W. Bush in 1991.

For the background check, the FBI conducted 30 interviews with friends, family, neighbors and former colleagues. What emerged was a portrait of a man admired for his brilliance but whose personal life and character are often questioned. It's not unlike the picture painted in Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography "Steve Jobs."

The FBI can make records public after a person's death. The agency released the records responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and others.

In any case, Bloomberg does a good job summing up the contents of the documents nicely:

"The interviews show conflicting views of Jobs. One former Apple colleague whom the FBI described as bitter toward Jobs questioned his 'moral character' after not being awarded stock in Apple. Another person said Jobs possessed 'high moral character and integrity.'

"Two other unnamed individuals the FBI interviewed said Jobs was 'strong-willed, stubborn, hardworking and driven, which they believe is why he is successful.' The two people said Jobs 'possesses integrity as long as he gets his way,' without elaborating.

"One woman said she was reluctant to discuss Jobs with the FBI because she had 'questions concerning his ethics and his morality.' She said Jobs's personal life was 'lacking' because of his 'narcissism and shallowness.' Even so, the woman recommended Jobs for the appointment, calling him 'a visionary and charismatic individual.'"

Another person interviewed described Jobs as "deceptive", but still recommended him for the appointment.

"Honesty and integrity are not required qualities to hold such a position," the person told the FBI.

If you're interested in digging deeper, our friends at KQED's News Fix sent us the full cache of documents:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.