Perspective wanted & What is a "background investigation"

Hey all,

I’m not very well versed in the clearance process and would appreciate some perspective.

In 2016, I had a conditional offer from an IC agency. I was a recent grad who was so caught up in the allure for working for this agency that I didn’t think about what it would be like to be scrutinize for a Top Secret Clearance. I completed a SF-86 and sat for a lifestyle polygraph. The polygraph did not go well. I mistook the polygrapher for a therapist, brought up some of my insecurities and an immoral, but not illegal behavior that occurred in 2010. In March 29, 2017, I received a letter from the agency that rescinded my conditional offer. But the letter said that I was not “denied clearance” and I should note as much when I complete security forms in the future. I think if I got it in my head that I’m a good person it might have been a different result. I was disappointed but I moved on.

Fast forward to today. I recently started a job for a federal contractor and recently completed a SF-85p for a public trust position. Question 18a asks “Has the United States Government ever investigated your background and/or granted you a security clearance?” I thought I met the criteria for having my background investigated so I said yes. The agency that’s conducting the public trust investigation said the IC agency was contacted and they said I was “denied clearance” in April 4, 2017, four days after I received the recension letter. I already submitted a response and provided a copy of the recension letter, but I have lingering questions.

Was I correct in thinking that I met the criteria for a “background investigation?” I did some research and I’m thinking that maybe a background investigation is a specific step within the hiring process, where an investigator will interview former neighbors and associates. I did not reach that stage in my previous offer. If “No” to 18a was the correct response, maybe the IC agency wouldn’t have been contacted and this whole can of worms could have been avoided.

Since the IC agency has already been contacted, should I assume 100% transparency between them and the current government agency? I’m concerned that the things I said during the polygraph almost 2 years ago will be used against me without due process. Since I am going for a Public Trust and the polygraph was for a Top Secret, are there any boundaries that will apply?

Lastly, I don’t know why the IC agency told me that I wasn’t denied clearance but apparently four days after our last correspondence, denied me clearance. Maybe the benign answer is someone made a human error somewhere along the way, but I can’t shake the idea that maybe I’m being administratively railroaded by the IC agency.

Any thoughts?

You weren’t denied a clearance (based on your first paragraph). You were discontinued for suitability reasons (most likely) - the agency did not feel like you were suitable for them in particular. As for the polygraph, if that immoral behavior falls under one of the 13 adjudicative standards, then the agency can discontinue you if they want. They can discontinue pretty much anyone for processing, for a multitude of reasons.

If you were not contacted by a background investigator for that agency or any other agency then you have not been investigated by the government (as far as you know). To clarify that, when they go over the security forms with you, they usually ask if you’ve met with a US government official to go over your background. So the answer would have been No. However, a “No” to that question does not mean that the current agency working on your file, will not do their due diligence and check your records in whichever database you were put into (Scattered Castles, or JPAS).

Agencies don’t really take the time to personally railroad people, they don’t have the time nor the resources to go after every applicant and do that. It’s not personal.

Also were you actually denied the clearance? Did you get formal correspondence? An SOR? If so, then you should start taking action now. Look at the SOR, read up on adjudicative standards, call up a clearance lawyer for a free consultation before you run out of time. There is usually a 30 day period during which you can appeal.
If you haven’t actually been denied, or if you want more information, you can always request a full FOIA. That would take a long time to come through … years sometimes.

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Thank you for the response Anon1. I’ll read up on the 2 databases you mentioned.

I never received correspondence informing me of a denial of clearance or an SOR. So when I recently submitted the SF-85p, I responded “No” to question 18b “To your knowledge, have you ever had a clearance or access authorization denied, suspended, or revoked, or have you ever been debarred from government employment?” But I got dinged by the current investigating agency, because they say the IC agency says I was denied clearance. They asked me to explain the discrepancy. I submitted a written response basically saying I only know what I’ve been told and provided the recension letter. I put in a FOIA request to the IC agency last week but I didn’t realize it can take years. Yikes!

When I say railroaded, I don’t think I’m important enough for someone to execute a personal vendetta against me. But I’m wondering if the IC agency is withholding information from me that is jeopardizing my public trust investigation. Is it possible that I was discontinued for suitability on March 2017, then denied clearance in April 2017, and was never told? If it’s not that, then maybe someone from the IC agency relayed incorrect information to the current agency. How often does something like that happen?

Also, there was video and audio recording during my polygraph. Should I expect the current and any future investigating agency to review that for a public trust?

Something isn’t adding up here. You were either denied a clearance or not denied a clearance. You were either discontinued or not discontinued…
I think you need to reach out your POC at the initial agency, and clarify this situation. If someone says you are discontinued, and someone else says oh no well you’ve been denied, this creates an issue for all future processes because you don’t know where you stand. Ask your POC if you’ve been denied or discontinued and explain that you are seeking employment elsewhere and need clarification. If you’ve been denied, there is a letter that comes with the denial (with all cases). The SOR might come later but that denial letter should be with you.
People make mistakes all the time… so it might have been a mistake. Or it could be that you were denied but never received the letter. Either way you need the initial agency to clarify this for you.
For a public trust, I wouldn’t think they would review those recordings to be honest.

The FOIA will not help you at the moment. If you cannot get the Denial Letter, and your SOR, or clarification about the situation, then seek legal advice. Be sure to explain everything that happened and see what the lawyer thinks. Reach out to that initial agency first though.

Hope this helped.

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Thank you Anon1! This is very helpful.