SF-86 Interview and Polygraph - Red Flags

My security interview and polygraph are scheduled for later this month. From my SF-86, I imagine the following will be red flags to discuss:

  1. First and only DUI was in 2006. I called to get records of case, they told me they don’t keep records that far back. (I called the courthouse of two counties where I believe the incident occurred). Paid the fine and etc.
  2. I lived abroad for 7 years. 3 of those years are within my “past 7 years” that they ask about. I worked at several different places, and of course had contact with many foreign nationals (I was a teacher).
  3. I reported drug use for MJ, Cocaine, and LSD - only a few times and as of now it was about 6.5 years ago. Never bought, never sold, never carried - shared by friends and only used lightly in a few social occasions. (I put on my form 5 times max. over a span of three years, when I was 30-33 +/-)

I went through a rough time, and those 3 years coincide with the deterioration of my marriage and then divorce process. I’ve never used any type of drugs since then, and at most drink 2-3 beers on a Saturday night once in a while at home while watching tv.

I’ve never had any other problems connected with alcohol or drugs, and no longer have any contact with the social circle from back then. I was totally honest on my SF-86, and I don’t have any problem telling the truth about the circumstances around each issue. I’m mainly terrified I’m going to not be able to remember some detail they ask about, and I’m nervous my nervousness is going to make me look even more guilty than I really am.

Are the issues listed above reason for me to expect my clearance (top security, NSA) to be denied? If the items I put on my SF-86 were reasons to deny my clearance, would they just deny me at that point or is it always a necessary step to be interviewed?

Thanks for any info or advice you can give me. I tend to overthink and I’m sure losing sleep over this isn’t going to help anything.

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First, they are almost always going to interview you (not talking about suitability) because there are mitigating circumstances for everything and they need to cull through those before making a decision in your case.

The DUI shouldn’t turn into a big issue. They will locate records, see that you completed the requirements of your sentence and you have said that you don’t really drink and have never had a problem with alcohol.

Teaching abroad shouldn’t be a problem, depending on where you were. Sure you had many contacts, but you only have to worry about anyone with whom you had continuing, close, contact. If you saw them at school during class and office hours, no problem. If you socialized, they will need to be reported.

Drug use . . . . In general, MJ use can be mitigated. Coke and LSD? That’s more difficult. You were going through a divorce. High pressure, stressful, situation? Yes. What about when things get stressful at work? Could you slide in the same direction? You showed poor judgement back then, why wouldn’t it be expected in the future? Your age at the time, indicates that you should have known better.

You made you life more difficult with these decisions. You can likely clear (although the NSA can be tough) but you have made their jobs more difficult.


As usual Ed nailed it. I see no issue with the DUI if there are no other alcohol issues. Living overseas is not a big issue, if it is a communist country that can make it slow down until they are sure you weren’t recruited there. MJ is mitigated but I too would say the higher level drugs and age during use is more difficult, but not impossible.to mitigate. Going through a high stress period where you made bad decisions “not likely to repeat” may be a saving grace. But if the drug use led to the marriage breakup…don’t use that line of reasoning. Be honest and truthful. But be careful of the no possession, handling, transfer part of that question. Obviously to use one possesses, if it is handed to you…it was transferred. They may very well go down that rabbit hole as drugs cost money. Be specific on amount of times used, such as 1 or 2 puffs vice 1 or 2 joints. Be clear. You will be nervous, that will show and it is to be expected. Living a life free of these substances is the best defense at this stage of the game. Time is your friend and these items are about to fall off the “does it matter” list. They may take issue with your age but it might be explained as one who tried remaining young way too long, but you wised up and stopped the silly stuff.


Thank you both for the honest feedback!
So definitely drug use didn’t lead to the divorce, it was something we tried together (very few times) and if anything, his stronger interest in those activities added to my growing apart from him.

I never paid for anything, period. Things were offered to me out in nightclubs or bars from friends, and a few times I used, and then gave the baggie back. The LSD was once, again offered by a friend.

Since the end of that time frame, I remarried, and focused all of my energy on my profession and health, as I had decided to try to get pregnant. I’ve never looked back since, and stated on my SF-86 the several strong reasons why I have no interest in ever using any sort of substance again.
High stress situation, yes good point about a concern of slipping back into that pattern - I would try my best to explain that relocating to the USA with my husband and 8-month old daughter, finding work, and now having a very high-stress job and 2 children under the age of five has not caused even a consideration of using anything again - in fact, these are all reasons for me to never mess around in anything like that again! I didn’t mean to imply that using the drugs was a way of coping with the hard situation. It was more like I was going through a time of carelessness - like you said, Amberbunny, maybe trying to grasp the carefee spirit of being young again. I’ve moved into a much better space, and certainly “wised up.”

Thank you again, and I’d be happy for any other suggestions!


I think you will be okay. Everyone “grows up” at their own pace. I think your last post is an excellent mitigation statement in and of itself. You grew up. You wised up, and life circumstances changed. Being a mom can do that. No longer associating with the former crowd of users (to include ex) is also a strong mitigation. Reporting it thoroughly eliminates it from anything you can be blackmailed over. Yes, there is the issue of making bad decisions at an age where they no longer give a free pass…but the significant life changes since then will also be taken into consideration.


I think the only issue here is living abroad and that’s not a show stopper, just a complicating factor. I always tell people with this situation to start gathering up as much info as you can about addresses, dates of travel, where you lived, where you worked, etc etc etc. Sometimes they want the contact info for someone in the USA (ie, someone they can actually interview) who can help verify those dates. Maybe you know someone like that, maybe you dont.

I have met people with similar backgrounds who got cleared but they were usually not among the “fastest 90% of cases” if you know what I mean.