DCSA Interview Gone Awry

I have recently been granted an interim secret clearance and given a start date by my new employer. However, I understand that honesty is the best policy when filling out the SF-86, so I laid everything out there and was called into a DCSA interview due to several “flags” on my form. I have never had a clearance, but am very concerned about my eligibility and future employment, as it is conditional on me getting my Secret clearance…

For context, I had been arrested once in college for drinking (no charge), held a medical marijuana card for 4 years until 2021, and self-referred to rehab for alcohol last fall. I no longer drink or use marijuana, and am proud of the progress I have made personally, but am worried this will disqualify me professionally… Fortunately, none of this has impacted my work or my career, and I only had the one arrest in college.

Again, I was honest about everything on the 86, but the interview with the DCSA agent felt like I was being interrogated. Everything was asked in extreme detail down to the type, frequency, and the environment in which alcohol was consumed. It felt like the whole interview focused on these negative aspects of character - nothing on my professional achievements, dependability, or strength of character and any attempts to discuss them seemed to be brushed over…

I am very concerned I’ll start this job but be denied my clearance in adjudication for these reasons… So any input from those with similar experience who received or were denied their clearance, would be greatly appreciated. Do you think I even have a shot, or should I consider staying at my current job?

You will be asked to provide all details about your alcohol and drug use - when both began, how often, why use took place, circumstances of each instance, where counseling/treatment was obtained, who the counselors were , type of treatment, any diagnosis or other therapeutic step prescribed to include medication.

Be prepared to provide dates, and treatment contact info. You may be asked to sign an authorization form to obtain records

Remember underage consumption of alcohol is illegal. The use of marijuana is illegal on a federal level which is where clearances are processed. It doesn’t matter what might be legal in specific states or if you’ve been a card carrying member of some loose medical ideology. Be upfront, cooperate with what’s asked and for peace of mind lower expectations.

The purpose of the interview was to get the details of those incidents so that’s why they focused on that and not anything else. It can be very unnerving going through this process the first time but after a while (if you stay in this business) you just get used to it.

Doesnt seem like a huge concern and as long as you didn’t admit to a lot of other incidents that you did not list on the form it should not be a problem.


However that would be Agency dependent….

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But the fact that they granted an interim suggests that it did not seem like a big deal… a few years ago interims were getting to be the exception rather than the rule, and any possible red flag resulted in no interim being granted, even though a final favorable adjudication eventually came later (much later).

I still think the key factor here is that no significant additional details were uncovered during the interview, such as “just this one time” listed on the form turns into the subject disclosing a long term pattern of binge drinking when pressed on the topic.


Nothing you’re describing indicates it went awry. That’s the standard procedure.


As stated above, not awry.


I apologize, perhaps the title of this post doesn’t adequately reflect my question. The interview felt like an interrogation in which the agent was trying to find reasons to disqualify me… This is my first time going through something like this, and I understand it’s standard procedure from your standpoint.

My real question/concern is my eligibility for a clearance, based on my past, as shared in this post. I was honest in the 86, and in the interview, but am worried about how my history will be viewed in adjudication and whether anyone with similar backgrounds can share if they’ve been approved/denied a clearance.

I appreciate the input. Nothing additional came up as I was extremely transparent on the SF-86. So hopefully it’ll all be a wash to your point, and I can get my clearance!

It sounds like a standard interview. I know it can be very intimidating the first time around, but the investigator’s job is to dig and report the details. The more specific the better, it indicates full disclosure.

While investigators do not adjudicate, so we never know the outcome, most of us have seen just about everything.

Good luck.


Our jobs are to get details needed for adjudications. What is a mitigating to an adjudicator is not the same as what you believe to be mitigating (the things you said were brushed off, professional development, etc.) It sounds like your Investigator did a thorough job of getting all the details and I would bet dollars to donuts, that includes the mitigating questions as well, you are just focused on what you perceive to be the negative. Successful adjudication in your favor depends on several factors, to include position and agency, your story is not one that we have not dealt with a thousand times over, try not to stress too much.


Really appreciate this response. Thanks for the perspective