John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

FBI File Shocker: Steve Jobs Was a Willful, Mercurial Ex-Hippie and Computer Genius

What did the FBI have on Steve Jobs? Not much, according to its investigation of the late Apple founder and CEO.

The agency just released its file on Jobs, compiled during a background check conducted in the 1990s, when Jobs was being considered for a spot on a White House council on exports. And, with the exception of a noteworthy nugget or two, it’s about as mundane as they come.

If you’ve read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs — or, frankly, any newspaper obituary of the man — then you’re already as well-informed on his life and peccadilloes as the FBI.

Put it this way: Among the highlights of the agency’s 191-page dossier is the observation that Jobs was a former hippie: “During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Jobs may have experimented with illegal drugs, having come from that generation.”

A few others:

  • Jobs had a tendency to “twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.”
  • Jobs underwent a “change in philosophy by participating in eastern and/or Indian mysticism and religion. This change apparently influenced his personal life for the better.”
  • Jobs was “strongwilled, stubborn, hardworking and driven, which … is why he is so successful.”
  • Jobs liked to get his own way.
  • Jobs was not a member of the Communist party.
  • Jobs did “an outstanding job in the computer industry.”

Really, the FBI’s only discovery of note was that Jobs was inexplicably granted Top Secret security clearance by the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office between 1988 and 1990. Oddly, those credentials were issued by Pixar, which may have done some government work around that time.

Beyond that? Not much. Had Isaacson written his biography of Jobs a few decades earlier, he would have saved the FBI a hell of a lot of work.

Below, the report in its entirety:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik