What are my chances? DIA applicant with major red flags

I’m a 23 year old graduate student that completed undergrad in May 2023. I am in the application process for DIA and am curious about my security clearance/suitability adjudication, should I receive a CJO. Using a throwaway account.

I have a considerable amount of red flags from my time in college. These include alcohol abuse, drug use, marijuana sale, pattern of academic dishonesty, drinking and driving, hiring a prostitute, watching movies/TV on “free” websites, foreign travel (14 countries since 2017), and foreign contacts (friends from school).

Alcohol abuse (Spring 2018-Fall 2021)

  • Arrest due to alcohol use October 2019
  • 2 alcohol violations while in freshman year Fall 2019—conduct probation
  • While in college, blacked out almost weekly until arrest
  • After arrest, went for alcohol counseling while staying in college. I went sober for 90 days until January 2021.
    • But since my mindset was the same (low confidence, seeking external validation, no purpose in life), my drinking did not abate much after ending sobriety
  • Drinking severity significantly decreased after moving home from the dorms at the start of Spring 2021 semester
  • Couldn’t control drinking on days I drank
  • Last blackout September 2023, and before that, June 2023—although I highly suspect I was drugged that time

Alcohol mitigation:

  • haven’t had a problem with booze since late Fall 2021
  • change in value set
  • saw therapist for help restoring confidence and self-worth
  • alcohol problems are in the past

Drug use (Fall 2019-Fall 2021)

Marijuana (~35)
* Started November 2019, ended October 2021
* Used in total maybe 35 times with frequencies ranging from once every week or so to once every two months

Cocaine (10)
* Purchased cocaine “lines” and “bumps” from friends totaling 10 occasions. All usage except one occurred between September 2019 and November 2020. First use September 2019, last use February 2022. February 2022 use was first use in 15 months.

LSD (2)
* Used twice: November 2019 and August 2021
* Small amount, didn’t feel it either time

Ketamine (1)
* One use Spring 2020 while blacked out
* No recollection

Codeine (1)
* One use in December 2017
* Used as a joke given prevalence in pop culture

Amyl nitrate (poppers) (1)
* One use Spring 2020, same as ketamine night
* No recollection

Adderal (1)
* Took friend’s adderal one time November 2019

Drug mitigation:

  • significant time since last use
  • use was a result of lack of care for world’s rules and desire to appear cool. I also felt lost and didn’t care about anything

Marijuana sale

  • Sold marijuana, mostly in edible form, from my stock to friends approximately 44 times. 37 occurred from December 2019-March 2020, 2 in October 2020, 2 in November 2020, 2 in September 2021, and 1 in November 2021.
  • I would buy edibles and marijuana carts from my friend in a legal state, he would ship them to my school P.O. Box, and I would sell edibles to my friends. Occasionally, I would trade “hits” of the marijuana carts for money. In July 2021, I purchased plant marijuana from this same friend, who was back home for the summer. He had brought it with him. I mostly used the plant marijuana for myself, but I sold the rest of the marijuana to a friend in November 2021 to get rid of it after I quit in October 2021.
  • I received approximately $635.5 from my friends as payment.

MJ sale mitigation:

  • only sold to friends, not an industrial operation
  • Over 2 years since last sale

Academic integrity violations:

  • Cheated on academic assignments in high school and college sporadically up until October 2022, where I was caught and received a “letter of discontent” but did not receive honor violation and the letter of discontent is expunged from my record
  • was accused of cheating in Spring 2019 in HS but successfully argued my case

Academic integrity mitigation:

  • symptom of my apathy about the world
  • totally different worldview and value set now
  • over a year since last incident of cheating

Prostitute hiring
*hired a prostitute in a legal country in May 2022

mitigating factor:

  • only time doing so
  • regret and will not do so again

Broad mitigating factors

  • Strong sense of contrition
    • Disgusted with my out of control behavior, disregard for law and integrity, selfishness, and worldview
  • Genuine reformation—complete life turnaround
    • Don’t even recognize the person I was back then
    • Significant maturation
    • I lead a principled life according to legal and moral standards. I recognize that my past wrongdoings are not only legally problematic, but also morally so.
    • Much more religious
    • Very honest and have high integrity
    • Therapy to work on alcohol and self confidence issues
  • No intent to do drugs ever again
  • Have not cheated since October 2022 and will not ever again
    • Cheating was a function of laziness, not need. It eliminated the time required to study, but did not elevate my grades higher than what they would have been if I did take the time to study.
  • Have not drove while over the legal limit since March 2023 and will not ever again
    • Scrupulous in calling Ubers and don’t even have car with me in current city
  • Only drinking socially, developed methods to keep it under control
    • Most recent blackout in September 2023 was a massive wake-up call, and I drink only once/week with 5-6 drinks on average.
  • I am willing to forgo all alcohol consumption in the future
  • My alcohol abuse and drug use was a product of my lack of self confidence.
    • I lacked self confidence and did what I felt would earn me acceptance in “popular” circles in college, and this included heavy drinking and some drug use.
    • Further, I used alcohol as a confidence booster in and of itself. My previous lack of self confidence is the core reason for the way I abused alcohol and used drugs the way I did, and it is not relevant anymore
    • I have very high self confidence now and have no need to find validation through others. So no chance this behavior will resurface
  • I do not associate with the vast majority of people I used to do drugs with and sell drugs to, and the two people I am still friends with have made positive improvements in their drug use. Drugs are not a part of my life anymore, and they never will be again
  • When sold weed to friends, I was young and immature (19-21) and seeking external validation. My actions were of the weed culture in my (then) friend group, and I was not an industrial drug dealer. The sale of the kind I partook was common within my friend group.
    • I would sell small quantities to my friends if they wanted any, and many times I would just share it with them without getting paid.
  • My previous conduct has no impact on my current and future ability to safeguard sensitive information or perform my job with excellence
  • I fully understand the seriousness of my past wrongdoings, have atoned for them, and commit to never doing them again
  • I cannot be blackmailed or coerced with any of this information, as I do not lie about it to others

I understand this is a lot. However, I am genuinely reformed from this kind of behavior and take full accountability for it. I have at least a year between now and my last red flags, and in most cases, even longer.

In my case, I am most worried about the pattern of academic cheating, even thought it isn’t asked on the SF-86 and my transcript is clean. Further, to my knowledge, the poly is only CI, not FS, so with luck, it will not be asked about. I am also very worried about the MJ sale and alcohol abuse, even though I am confident in my mitigating factors.

I will be 100% honest on any form and in any interview. I understand how my former conduct might convince an adjudicator to deny me clearance or suitability. Be it my degenerate drinking, my drug use and sale of weed, my academic dishonesty, or my selfish drinking and driving, I am gravely aware of how my form might look to an adjudicator. I felt sick going through my memory, reminding myself of the horrible decisions I made. I deeply regret my actions, and I know in my heart and in my mind that I am truly a changed person. I know I can’t change the past, and honestly, I’m not sure I would. I admire the person I am today and wouldn’t be here without these severe mistakes. Now, I am a much more reliable and trustworthy person. These transgressions no longer define me in the slightest bit, and I am fully committed to maintaining good conduct in accordance with the law and DIA’s priorities.
I want your advice:

  1. In your opinion, how is my case? What do you see as the result for both clearance and suitability review?

  2. Have I done a good job stressing my mitigating factors?

  3. Are my mitigating factors good enough?

  4. How should I frame my reformation story to maximize my chances of positive adjudication for clearance and suitability?

  5. What questions will be asked in a CI polygraph? Will I be asked JUST about counterintelligence stuff and SF86 stuff, or will I be asked about relevant things not on the SF86, like academic dishonesty or drinking and driving without arrest?

  6. Do you have any other comments/concerns?

Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to reading and responding to your comments.

Wow! Not to be a bear but I can only imagine your packet will take quite a bit longer to process and investigate. I’m sure they will ask you everything in your background going back to school up until now, so be prepared.


Honest opinion… you are not far enough removed from the issues. I think you’re better off waiting a few years.


You last used cocaine in Feb 2022? That is not “significant time since last use”. Not by a long shot. And that was after 15 months of not using.

In my personal opinion, your mitigation is not strong.

I’d wait, take steps to stay clean/sober and attempt at a later date.


That’s exactly what I was going to say.
Your last alcohol blackout was 4 months ago, you definitely have an active drinking problem, not one that is under control since 2021.

I had one blackout in the last 20 years and it scared me so much I quit drinking. THAT is what “not an issue” looks like.

I think you need to get into treatment and reexamine the language you are using. Trying to say 15 months is significant is going to prevent anything you say from being taken seriously.

1 Like

Thank you for your input. To your point, and to assuage adjudicators, I am getting a substance abuse evaluation for alcohol consumption. Given my rehabilitation, and despite the September blackout, I am confident that I will receive favorable results from it.

Still, I agree with your approach of “better safe than sorry.” How long do you recommend I wait until reapplying for cleared jobs?

Thank you for your input. How long do you recommend I wait until resuming the cleared job search?

I appreciate your input. What issues are most alarming to you? How many years is a “few”?

I am prepared for a year+ investigation, lol. Thanks for your comment.

I would give it at least two years of either sobriety or modified drinking according to your program’s guidance. Modified means NO heavy drinking, which is defined as more than 3 in one event for women or more than 7 per week and more than 4 in one event or 13 or more per week for men. It’s going to depend if you have an AUD/SUD diagnosis and the severity as well, and the general prognosis given by your treatment coordinator. Given what you’ve said here, it sounds like you’re probably in the severe category. I’m not a doctor though.

If you haven’t heard of SMART, it’s a secular version of AA where they don’t demonize you for having issues, and doesn’t require complete sobriety or anything. They focus more on the mental health aspect that goes into wanting to abuse substances. I came from a family of addicts, and by managing my mental health I have avoided ever getting into that situation to begin with. Don’t stop your other program, use this as adjunct.

But really you need to ask yourself, why did you continue to drink after you suspect someone drugged you while drinking? You will need strong mitigation for that alone. I insist you seek out a mental health professional and see if you can get at what’s hiding underneath all the substances.

Best of luck to you.

That is a hard question to answer. I would normally say no marijuana use in the last year and nothing else in at least 3, however, that advice is for either one particular issue or infrequent use… that doesn’t apply to you. You have multiple issues, some are considered pretty serious. Not only drug use but also purchasing and distribution, alcohol issues including drinking and driving which puts others at risk of death, (both drugs and alcohol have “ever” questions as they are a large concern.) Sexual promiscuity can be viewed as a blackmail concern. Academic dishonesty… if you were willing to cheat and compromise your morals under pressure, why should we believe you wouldn’t do it again? You used hard drugs and not just marijuana, hard drugs are looked at with more scrutiny. You misused prescription drugs, … honestly bud, you’re screwed. I don’t know how many years it will take to mitigate all that because it is A LOT. You are the type of person others have to discuss in THEIR investigation for having questionable associations. I’m not trying to be rude, but there has not been a significant amount of time passed… in the eyes of the government you barely quit and could very well slip back into that lifestyle. Just because you understand you messed up, means you STILL MESSED UP! It doesn’t matter what is “on paper” as we will find things out that is not “on paper”… the issue is still an issue whether you were reprimanded on paper or not. You do not have as many mitigating factors as you seem to think you do.


Thank you for your response. I appreciate the level of detail you included.

I know that it might be hard to believe, given my September blackout, but I do not have a drinking problem. I drink once (occasionally twice) per week, with an average of 4-6 drinks per session. I only drink when with friends, never when I’m alone.

I’m going to get a substance abuse evaluation done, not because I believe I have a drinking problem, but for documentation saying I don’t. Should the evaluator give a different result, I will eat my words and adhere to their plan.

During the point in my life when I had a drinking problem (Fall 2018-Spring 2021), it was motivated by poor self confidence, an apathetic worldview, and peer pressure. The drivers for my drinking problem are no longer present in my life. I am confident, driven, and hold a deep respect for the world and its laws and rules.

As all this pertains to my clearance, how does my mitigation look? What about if I decline this COE and try again in a year?

Thanks for your brutal honesty.

I definitely see what you’re saying about the gov having reason to doubt my transformation, given the severity and relative recency of my red flags.

I understand that I made these choices–regardless that they were influenced by my mental state, peer pressure, and my apathetic world view–and that I have a responsibility to prove that they are truly in the past. It sucks knowing that they genuinely are, and will not recur, yet still knowing I’m probably screwed this year for a clearance.

Working for the government in national security has been my dream for years. It is truly the only thing I want to do professionally. It is unfortunate that my choices are going to delay my entry to the government for at least another year.

  1. To your point in the beginning of your response–do you see my mitigation process taking more than three years? In other words, if you were in my shoes, would you wait to seek a cleared job for another 3 years?

  2. I also don’t understand your last comment about what is “on paper.” Should I decide to go forward with this Jan/Feb COE, I will be fully honest about all that is asked on the SF86 and all that I am asked in interviews/polygraphs. I would be shocked if the government found stuff that even I couldn’t remember.

  3. Finally, what mitigating factors would best help my individual case?

You’re not going to have a chance if you can’t admit you have a drinking problem. You still drink heavily as 4-6 regularly qualifies as a binge. This is supported by the fact you blacked out. I’m sorry, but please spend some time getting familiar with it. It is a very hard thing to learn to accept.

If you research the long form SEAD4 desk reference there is a section on what is considered alcohol abuse during the process. You fit very nicely in that category. They are not going to want to hear your personal opinion on this given all your substance history.

Additionally, of the one denial I saw for alcohol last year, one of the reasons the denial was upheld was “continued drinking after blacking out”.

If you modify down to not drinking weekly or drinking less than 4 per sitting when you do, you may have a chance in the future. I would honestly suggest full abstinence for a year or longer so you no longer qualify as having an active problem under the DSM V.


Where do you get the long form SEAD4 desk reference?

4 drinks of anything would put me on the floor. 6 would give me alcohol poisoning. And I’m no slouch.

I would honestly suggest full abstinence for a year or longer so you no longer qualify as having an active problem under the DSM V

I agree, if you can’t completely quit drinking for a year in order to have a shot at your “dream job,” to me, that alone qualifies as a problem.


Yeah that also would do me in pretty fast. With all these new beers at higher ABV when I did drink I’d be done after 1.

I found it here: https://www.dhra.mil/portals/52/documents/perserec/adr_version_4.pdf (this is very outdated because it’s public and from 2014, but I’m sure it’s still mostly relevant).

OP is textbook compared to the lessons learned sections.

Awesome looks like it predates SEAD 4 but still very helpful - thanks!

1 Like

I have to say I appreciate your honesty. SEAD 4 is used to mitigate clearance issues and you’re hitting some categories pretty hard. You can look at it here SEAD-4-Adjudicative-Guidelines-U.pdf (odni.gov) I see several issues where I would think at least 3 years need to pass showing you have completed mitigating factors. The way the Consolidated Adjudicating Service (CAS) looks at clearances is by looking at the whole person concept. They could care less about your story they want to know if you took responsibility for the issue, what you did to mitigate it, and steps you took in changing your life for the better since you mitigated it. Everyone has skeletons in their past. Some more than others, however, i believe you can get past this by allowing some time to show you have changed and completing some programs as well as showing diagnoses on the drug use either being an issue or not. Some of this can be written off as a young college kid with no direction. It boils down to trustworthy, reliability, loyalty, honesty, and having good judgement. However, owning up to the issues presented and showing the mitigating factors using the whole person concept will be very important. Also, I’m concerned you hit the Insider Threat program which can also be something looked at with in the clearance program. You will have to also consider the 13 DITMAC thresholds and mitigate these issues. One way to get past your drug and alcohol use is to have enrolled in a treatment program; have completed a rehabilitation program; have evidence that the conduct will not be repeated. There is a sexual behavior issue, even though things are legal doesn’t make them legal in the clearance world. Have documentation to show these steps as well as something to think about is having a clearance is a privilege and not a right. I do wish you the best of luck.

1 Like