SF86 Possible Error

So I’ve been in a role for about two years which required applying for a Secret clearance. I’ll be moving on from this job imminently and am considering coming back in the mid-term future to another cleared role, but I remembered a drug incident that I had forgotten and left off of my SF86 I had completed for my current role. About a year prior to completing the SF86 when I was 21 (and about 3 years ago now), I may have tried cocaine. The bizarre thing is - I can’t even specifically remember if it happened, just that it was around and I was in a position to have tried it and may have… I had included on my SF86 a handful of marijuana uses when I was younger in my teens. Would the instance of cocaine usage rule me out? Undoubtedly I’ll come off as having lied for my first investigation by excluding this incident, so should I just assume it’s over for me?

Not quite sure how one finds themself there…" not sure I did". If you did it was completely underwhelming but your self doubt…if you take a poly likely trips you up. It is very easy once the mind wanders down paths to feel a stress response when asked certain questions. Often those polys end with “inconclusive”.

How is it that you are unclear if you did or did not? Only way I see is if someone claims they spiked something. But most coke heads don’t give away coke for free. Did you seek it out? Pay for it? Trade for it? Memory of “something” up your nose…or just I don’t know…because I used a lot of stuff recreationally?

I know - it’s a tough story to buy. It was an old friend visiting me who had it (suffice to say that friendship is over now), and I seriously don’t remember if I tried it or not. I know it’s bizarre to not be able to know for sure. And no, prior to that it was only a handful of Marijuana uses over a few years when I was younger. I’d report this incident for any future potential clearance jobs, but I suppose they’d have to assume that 1) yes I did it and 2) I was lying about it on my first SF86. “I forgot about it” doesn’t exactly sound convincing. Is my only hope to be more than 7 years out from that incident?

More like 10 years on drug use. The possibility of them believing you falsified the SF 86 is likely a bigger concern. Removing that friend from your life is a mitigation. Living responsible since…is mitigation. Keep plugging away at being a better you. If the best answer you have is “I don’t believe I used coke, so I said no.” So be it. Age at time of possible use also buys a spot of cover.


Hi @Amberbunny2, is the ten year thing a typical requirement for IC clearances? I recently received a suitability denial for drug use, which was seven years in the past at time of application and ten years in past at time of decision. I thought that was insane, but perhaps it’s more common than I thought? Any input on this?

Drug use is judged on several factors: age at time of use, how many single events, how much consumed, type of drugs, and lastly how far in the past is this use, and is there mitigation demonstrated (completed degrees, substantial employment history, married, no further criminal acts, distancing from people and places where drug use occurred).

Mind you all that is part of the “art” and not science to the adjudication process. None of that means you won’t use again or violate other rules and law…but it seems like you are now on a new path. Too many get hung up on literal interpretation and completely miss spirit and intent.

Drug use in teen years, college…under age 24, no dealing…can usually be mitigated by 12 to 24 months of no use, removing people and places where used.

If a person was a regular user, every weekend, a heavy user…multiple times weekly, or over 24…they usually want 3 or more years of demonstrated non use.

Were you completely factual on form and interview? What drugs and frequency are we talking about? Any chance a reference or developed info said you did more?

Are there other issues such as credit, minor arrests, or other things adding up to a decision to pass you by?

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Hi there, thanks for the detailed response. I was completely honest on the forms and went thru poly no issue, no other stuff to cover other than some music downloading in college more than a decade ago. Drug use was lots of MJ and some psychedelics, no selling. Presumably if they thought I was lying about something I would have received a clearance denial rather than suitability? I’m married now and mid career, college life is far behind me. Honestly I’m scratching my head over the decision.

Could be…downloading over the drugs. They take that uber serious post Snowden Chelsea Manning era. Add in “a lot” of MJ, and shrooms…they likely categorized you as one who pushes limits and laws don’t stop. They find that to be a high hurdle.

I would agree 7 to 10 years past, married, etc…you have a track record demonstrating you overcame youthful stupidity. But if they felt there was deception on drug or downloads…added up…its a high hurdle.

Did you get a specific statement of reason yet? You have ability to appeal and having reviewed many turnovers…I can tell you they will reconsider if you demonstrated it is far enough behind you. There are cases of stunning drug amounts and arrests…denial overturned.

The hurdle thing makes sense to me I suppose, but again this was a suitability denial not a clearance denial. I can reapply in one year but no right to appeal decision. My working assumption is that the suitability denial indicates they did not believe I lied as that would lead to more serious repercussions. Your thoughts?

Kind of a side discussion, and I could certainly open up a post discussing it as I’m rather curious… I seem to see quite a bit of denials being issued around illegal downloading (whether that be a suitability or clearance denial). Now it may just be coincidence that some people have disclosed illegal downloading and been denied for something else. However, what, do you think, can serve as a mitigation in these cases? Time is a big one with a lot of things, but it seems that even after 10+ years, downloading seems to remain a big issue. Any thoughts?

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Post Snowden and Manning it is big…but they need take into consideration the generation gap. Those growing up in era of Napster, limewire etc downloading tunes for personal use are no worse than dubbing a friends cassettes in the 80s. Heck they sold high speed dubbing decks in the BX in the 80s. Now that that is fairly well locked down and the new concept of paying to download took hold…I think it needs measured as part of the whole, not the entire whole.

Those digging deep and downloading porn and other stuff…the government fears that.

Suitability denials from a company prior to submitting to the government is a no charge issue and you can reapply.

Getting a poly, no chance to explain answers post poly…they are firmly convinced there is deception, more to the story or much left unsaid.

Wait for SOR, definitely look into appealing but only if your contention is a valid mitigation. Too often folks challenge just to challenge.

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Your scenario makes no sense. If you took a poly for a national security position with an IC agency then the adjudicator first makes a national security decision and if favorable it automatically conveys a favorable suitability/fitness and HSPD-12 determination. How do you know it was a suitability decision? Even then you would have been given the reasons for and appeal options if based on the results of a background investigation.

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Not really sure what to say here. I received a discontinued processing email after three years of steps, which included subject interview, security interview, and poly/psych. Told I passed poly and psych eval and no further info needed. The letter came seven months later and said no appeal but could reapply in one year. I requested more information and was told unfavorable suitability decision was based on illegal behavior, which in my case was only the drugs and music downloading in college. Both were more than a decade in the past at time of decision.

Good questions. I had about a ten year period of pot use, which ended seven years before filing security paperwork. Music downloading was minor Limewire, shared dorm network stuff from college back in 05. Was honest throughout and poly was a straight shot, once and done. All security focus was on time I spent abroad, so suitability denial based on illegal behavior came out of left field for me. No wording indicating worries about deception. Wondering if re-application with a ten plus years of clean living will mitigate or if would be wasting my time?

I think it was downloading. Throw in drug use…they feel enough indicators are there to deny or make you wait as one they deemed more suitable takes your slot.