SOR received for IC agency. Are my chances at getting any kind of clearance ruined?

I have received my SOR as of this evening. Below is the exact letter as follows with exact dates redacted:

The US Government disapproved your request for access to classified information on May 2024. Individuals who are granted or maintain access to classified information must meet strict security standards as outlined in the enclosed attachment. Any doubt about whether an individual should be granted or retain access to classified information will be resolved in favor of national security.
The security clearance determination was based on Security Executive Agent Directive 4, National Security Adjudicative Guidelines for Foreign Influence, Personal Conduct, Drug Involvement and Substance Misuse.
On your security clearance application form SF-86 dated March 2024, you reported you illegally used Adderall two times in February 2020, mushrooms four times between December 2016 and April 2020; and THC daily between March 2016 and January 2022. You added you were provided the Adderall by a friend, and purchased mushrooms from a coworker and THC from a dispensary. You listed three foreign contacts, a father, uncle and cousin, who are all citizens of Mexico. You noted you reside with your father in California. During a security interview in March 2024, you clarified you used THC approximately 500 times between March 2016 and January 2022.
During your technical testing in April 2024, you relayed you had underestimated your THC use during security processing, and that the THC use was actually greater than the 500 times previously reported. You reported four additional foreign contacts, a grandmother and three acquaintances. You stated your grandmother is a citizen of Mexico, and the three acquaintances are “possible” citizens of Mexico. You explained that you last had contact with your grandmother in September 2023, and with the three acquaintances in December 2023.

So overall, the reasons given are understandable and I have no real reason to question the legitimacy of the decision. The polygraph is what probably did me over. The 2nd day, I was asked if I knew any other potential foreign contacts and I did list three people as mentioned (I had known them for a while through my cousin, but wasn’t sure if they were citizens even though they were very fluent in English). After the poly I went out of my way to ask the three individuals directly, and I found out two of them are US citizens and one is a permanent resident.

As for underestimating the drug use, it was a genuine, honest mistake. During my phone call about a week after submitting my SF86, I was asked to give a number of how many times I had used marijuana. I spitballed an estimate and said 500 times, but in retrospect, that was a huge mistake. I should have spent considerably more time over the phone to think about how many times I spent using recreational marijuana. The real answer was around 800-900 uses. During the poly I was asked to give a timeline of my use and how many times a day I used marijuana and that’s how it was determined I underestimated my use.

Both of the examples above are pretty much a result of me getting got by the polygraphing techniques. I won’t make any excuses for what happened; I should’ve been more diligent in adding foreign contacts if unsure about adding them on my SF86, and I should’ve spent the time over the phone to give more accurate drug use counts out of general caution. That being said, I do have the option to appeal my case in person or virtually (I would have to spend money to appeal in person, as I live on the west coast, but I would do it in person if possible).

I have the option to appeal the decision, and according to the letter I can reapply with the agency a year from the decision date (but I probably won’t be allowed in). I’ve heard some things about the agency I applied with being unreasonable with appeals, even with excellent legal counsel providing a proper statement. Would I have any chances of being able to appeal these decisions? I remain to abstain from any sort of illicit drug use to this day, but I am not sure how I am supposed to prove that I remain sober. In terms of personal conduct, I should’ve have taken the time to update my SF86 or tell my investigator of other potential foreign contacts (hindsight is 20/20), but I did call my PO to update the amount of times I did marijuana directly after the polygon exam. I am taking some time to read over all of the relevant SEAD guidelines listed in my SOR to develop and present a proper appeal. I am also unsure if spending thousands of dollars on legal counsel is a good move as I am unemployed at the moment. Honestly not sure if spending thousands of dollars on legal counsel is going to be worth it, but I also am not sure how to professionally present an appeal. Any advice?


THC count = honest mistake. People over or underestimate all the time. Unless you claimed you weren’t a frequent user at any point, I see no issue.

Foreign contacts: some were US citizens anyway, this shows you weren’t trying to hide anything.

Just have the lawyer help you reply to the SOR. Ask for an in person hearing. You don’t have to appeal the decision after that if you don’t want to spend the money to. I think these things can be reasonably mitigated, though.

Thanks for the input. I have a couple of clarifying questions if you don’t mind me asking.

  1. Sorry if it’s a dumb question, but should I only be responding directly to what is listed in the SOR (underestimating marijuana use and mentioning other foreign contacts I was unsure of)? After my polygraph, I took the time to notify my program officer to state that I had underestimated my marijuana usage, and they asked to send a fax to them to mention this change. Would this be a good thing to include in my SOR appeal?
  2. Regarding the foreign national that I found out is not a US citizen, what would be the best method to mitigate this issue? I mentioned that I have little contact with my grandmother (I have seen her twice in the past 5 years). As for the other person of the three individuals who is not a US citizen, I would have no issue simply cutting contact with them. The three individuals I mentioned were more or less acquaintances that I knew through my cousin. The foreign national also have been living in the US for over 25 years, I know that for a fact.
  3. Lastly, what would be the best mitigating factor against personal conduct in my case? I never tried to hide anything at all; when challenged about my underestimation of weed use during the polygraph I immediately admitted I had made a mistake. I also brought up those other potential nationals, which I admit I should’ve added to my SF86 out of precaution.

IANAL, but you could try digging through some DOHA appeals to get an idea of what they want to know. Include anything relevant, but I’m stressing to get a lawyer to help. They can make it go a lot easier and help you identify mitigating factors to support your case. Best of luck.

Do you know if they reached out to any of your references?

I had a free consultation earlier today with a lawyer. Since the SOR details were somewhat cryptic (apparently par for the course with the agency I applied for), it’s going to be a bit harder to make a proper case.

I’ve looked into getting a proper affidavit to prove my abstinence from all drugs including marijuana as well as potentially submitting drug tests, looking for a drug cessassion course I could attend, and get personal references to confirm my abstinence (a few amount of people know I have been sober for a while now, including multiple references.)

As for the foreign contact stuff, all I can think of at the moment is admitting to the honest mistake of not including them out of caution, and explaining that I have no allegiance or strong connection to any of them. I’m looking for a second opinion from a different lawyer.

Side note, but am I barred from getting any sort of clearance for a year, or just from the agency I applied with?

1 Like

Well… that’s a lot of stuff but, none of it seems that bad. Maybe it’s just quantity vs quality issue? It all seems like it can be mitigated either with help from the lawyer or simply by time. If he can’t get it straightened out on appeal, then just wait a year or 2 and try some stuff like drug counseling, renouncing any foreign citizenships you might hold, and limit or cease contact with foreigners. Best of luck.

Just the agency that I know of.

Wow. Your timeline seemed really fast for that agency. Any idea why it’s so fast?

I made it seem like a lot more than it actually is. It really boils down to three major things:

  1. I underestimated the amount of times I consumed marijuana over the general time span I listed on my SF86.
  2. I admitted to more foreign contacts during the polygraph that I should’ve included on my original SF86 to begin with (and none of them are really problematic or a danger to national security, IMO).
  3. My trustworthiness is essentially at stake for not reporting these things sooner.

I’m sending in my request for a review of the decision tomorrow to begin the appeal process. According to the lawyer I spoke with, they give ample time to prepare an appeal statement.

You will need to list this denial on future SF-86s unless you are successful in appeal. Its up to the new agency to decide from there.

My only guess is the agency is in desperate need for people. I was given an offer with not much experience under my belt. I am not in school, got a bachelors a couple years ago.

The real issue here is WHEN you used illegal drugs. You stated you used MJ after your Polygraph. That is VERY bad given you were told and knew it was illegal. It shows you didn’t care enough to even stop then. I know it’s not a “serious” drug, but it’s a following instructions and law/rules issue. That is the Crux of your problem. The foreign contacts in your case is nonsense and fluff on their end.

Now to be frank, i would not be confident at all that you will win an appeal because of when you used drugs alone. You may win but it will be a huge uphill battle because of the timeline. Sorry, just want to tame expectations. SOR suck and many are not even justifiable, your is. Let us know how it goes. Good luck.

I think you misinterpreted what is going on. Unless I am misunderstanding your comment, I never smoked MJ after the polygraph, or for over 2 years for that matter; what happened was I misreported the amount of times I used marijuana in totality prior to going completely sober in 2022. I submitted a urine test my first day there, so even if I was smoking, it would’ve been caught.

If I was still smoking marijuana during the investigation process, I would’ve never bothered to apply to any federal positions in the first place. As for the SOR, all I could do to present mitigating factors is provide more recent drug tests, take some kind of drug abstinence course, and gather multiple contacts who can vouch for my sobriety.

1 Like

I’m curious why they didn’t automatically deny you suitability after you admitted to using MJ 500 times during the phone call interview. Smoking 800-900 times is too much but 500 times is okay for them?

1 Like

I think they’re trying to say it’s intentional omission.

1 Like

I would say let your legal team decide if your case is worth appealing. If you are using a reputable legal team, they should be able to make a good assessment of whether your case has a good chance of being overturned.

Your foreign contacts do seem mitigatable, but your drug use does not. People forget to list foreign contacts quite often, that does not justify denying a security clearance over it. Your drug use is harder to mitigate.

When a security clearance is denied or revoked, you have to mitigate all security issues. Even if only one security concern cannot be mitigated, your denial/revocation will be upheld. This is why, in my opinion, you should not pursue appealing this decision. Legal teams will cost you at least a few thousand dollars, and there is no guarantee that they will be able to overturn the decision to deny you a clearance.

If you still want to challenge the decision, listen to your legal team.

Understandable. It’s easy for me to simply say “yeah I’ve been sober for 2 years and will continue to do so” but the adjudicators obviously thought that wasn’t good enough. I think this decision would’ve been likely had I given a more accurate use count from the get go.

According to a lawyer I spoke to, I’m allowed to begin the review process where I get a bit more information looked at by a senior security officer and apparently I get a good chunk of time to provide an appeal response. I know some people have had luck winning appeals without legal counsel, but I’m not sure if that will be achievable with my case, especially with the agency I applied for. I’ll definitely be requesting my IF and any other documents.

Yeah that’s pretty much what the lawyer I spoke with said. I can understand the perspective, regardless of the fact that I didn’t try to hide or deny any of the info during the poly.

The lawyer I spoke with said I will be barred from ANY type of clearance for a year. It sucks but it is what it is.

Oh man, that’s rough. Sorry.