Concerns post-DoS Secret interview

Hi All,

Just had my interview for a Secret clearance at DoS (two months after completing my eQIP and submitting docs). Interview went well, but I am worried about my prospects after talking to others.

The good:

  • Professional/educational: I have been in the same job for years, and absolutely nothing derogatory in my educational or professional records.
  • Financial: I have nothing derogatory on my credit report. The investigator said he sees nothing exceptional and thinks I am living well within my means. No civil judgments, etc.
  • Lifestyle: No arrests or other derogatory information in last seven years. Social alcohol consumption (was only asked about consumption on foreign trips). No mental health or other referrals for therapeutic services.
  • Foreign travel: Most trips are work-related. No run-ins or other flags from travel.

The moderate:

  • Dated a foreign national for a year, from western Europe. Relationship ended in early 2016. Ended amicably and we stay in sporadic touch (e.g., dinner twice since relationship ended).

The bad:

  • This is all about drug use. I was a regular user of marijuana through high school and most of college (two times a week). I was issued a non-criminal citation for marijuana possession in 2004 (college), after which I cut back my use extensively. The citation was dismissed. Use has been a couple times a year since 2007. The last two times I smoked were in 2015 (at a concert), and 2017 (more than a year ago).
  • Cocaine use: maximum 20 times socially. Never bought. last time was in 2012 or 2013.
  • Mitigating factors: all of my drug use was with people who I am no longer in contact with, in cities where I do not currently live. I made it very clear in both my eQIP and interview that I have absolutely no intention of using drugs ever again, it is not a part of my life, I never experienced any dependency or consequences other than the aforementioned citation. I do not associate with anyone who uses drugs.

I am most worried about the amount of use and the most recent marijuana use. Any investigators/adjudicators want to weigh in? Again, the investigator was nice and seemed positive, but I know he has little to do with the final adjudication. Any thoughts are much appreciated!

The investigator has nothing to do with this. They only write a report, they gather facts, and that’s it. Then your file is passed on to an adjudicator. This is the person who will look at the facts gathered and determine whether or not it is in the interest of national security to grant you access to classified information.

I suspect that your drug use will be questioned. The college stuff will not have much affect by itself, but the adult usage shows that you play a little loose with the rules.


Thanks, Ed. That is helpful. The investigator said he uses a “six pronged” approach to evaluate debt/finances, so I was under the impression that investigators do, in fact, provide some opinion or context in their report to adjudicators (for instance, he was calculating, on the spot, my debt service-to-income obligations, and stating he believes I am fine/living within my means).

In any case, I know there is little I can do at this point other than wait.

Honesty is always the best policy. I too had to mitigate a misuse of prescription drugs issue with my polygraph. It was for medicinal use only, followed the dosage…but it was stupid of me to do so. I never used again and have no plans to ever do again. Be humble and consistent in your answers. If you get denied, appeal and restate how and in what way you have overcome the previous use. Minimum is 12 months with no recreational use. The coke will require more than 12 months. As you go up in categories of drug use, they may want more time. Have no worries about dating a foreign national. If the MJ use was less than 12 months…I expect at least a conduct letter where you get warned not to use again. You may get denied. Not the end of the world as you can appeal. But if it has been less than 12 months…it just may be an initial denial.

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Thanks, @amberbunny. Quick clarifying question… I submitted my SF86 in early July. My last use was almost exactly one year before that. As of my interview, it was 15 months. Do you have any idea how the 12-month period is generally calculated?

1 July 2017 to 1 July 2018 would be 12 months. So if you get an interview and it is already 15 months since use…and then you submit the SF86, you have 15 months since last use. Now, if you said you NEVER used…but you know you did 15 months earlier…you have a potential issue. If you used and put it on the form you are fine. I don’t think anyone will say it was technically 360 days from the date you filled out the form, not 365 days. Normally it takes up to 2 months to start the investigation. So you are still building time between you and the date of use.

Thanks again, @amberbunny . I really appreciate the expertise. I think I perhaps was a bit confusing. I was offered a job in June, submitted SF86 in early July (approximately 12 months since last use, which was disclosed), and just had my interview with an investigator a week ago (approximately 15 months after last use).

The investigator looked at his calendar when asking about my last use and said something along the lines of “over a year ago? yep”. Which gave me the impression that the clock isn’t from when my SF86 was submitted, but rather when the investigator completes his report.

I know I am splitting hairs… and also I am more confident after seeing the thread on suitability denials that you contributed to, and the fact that my package was released to an investigator (though I don’t know if those standards apply to DoS).

Thanks again

Keep us posted. Age plays a factor as well, along with subject interviews. As long as you aren’t contradicted by references you just may be good to go.

Well . . . How does one have confidence in your intention to not smoke when you have 10 times in the last six years and twice in the last three (it doesn’t matter that it was in a “legal” state) and you didn’t stop your regular use until you were 35?

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Your case should be easy. Denial of clearance. There are too many people with clean records that follow the rules and keep their noses clean who deserve these jobs. Cutting low hanging fruit from the clearance process would reduce the backlog significantly.

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Deny…not an option. Obviously. It is a test to see if one is honest. Telling someone to be dishonest, in effort to prove honesty…well, I will let that sleeping dog lie. If by deny you mean you expect a denial…that…I can see based on the following.

Ed captured the nut of the info. There is no legal state in the federal government’s position. Period. You get zero mitigation smoking in Colorado as opposed to crossing the border into Wyoming to smoke. Age. Using past the age of roughly 24ish…requires more time to mitigate. They give a fairly large pass from middle school to graduate degree years. If use was low enough they can chalk it up to youthful experimentation. I find in my experience, 12 months non use for folks under 24 is good enough as long as credit and arrest records are okay. Once you pass 25, they often want 24 months, to 36 months to show you live a drug free life. I am glad to hear they reversed, kudos to you for honesty, even though you were put through a ringer. Over the long haul I believe you will be much happier having told the truth and never worrying about a future poly or someone claiming they used with you.

I think that Thor means that the OP should be denied . . .

It wasn’t exactly a reversal, it was sent back to adjudication.

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Tracking. Thor I was unclear on your meaning. If you meant deny use, pass clearance…I disagree. If you mean it reads more like a solid denial…I think you may be correct based on amount and willingness to use in a “legal” state.

No clearance. Not lie or alter facts.

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Quick update. I received my clearance from DoS and I am now waiting on a start date. I appreciate the comments and responses from those throughout this process.


Outstanding, congrats!

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