Hello! I am in the process of applying for Federal jobs that require a TS clearance, but I am concerned about being denied. The short of it is, I had a problem, I dealt with the problem, and there is no more problem. However, I also realize that our actions have consequences, so I’m hoping for some guidance from the experts. Details are below along with a few questions.
What are my chances of being found favorable for a TS clearance?
Should I volunteer this information even though it’s beyond 7 years? If so, when should I volunteer the information?
Drug usage – used frequently from age 16 to 29 or 30 and occasionally until 32 when quit voluntarily.
• Marijuana – frequently from age 17 to 30 and occasionally from age 30 to 32.
• LSD – approximately one year ending 1995 (estimated)
• Ecastasy – used occasionally for approximate 6 to 12 months ending 1999
• Cocaine – used on and off occasionally for 1 -2 months ending around 2000 with gap until a single use 2008
• Prescription painkillers – used for a week or two at age 32
• Others as a juvenile
Drug distribution – low level but frequent involvement mainly for personal usage, but also for profit. Voluntarily quit in approximately March 2006 with no recurrence.
• Marijuana – age 18 to 30 years with gaps totaling estimated two or three years
• Cocaine – estimated three months approximately 1996-1997
• Hallucinogens – on and off for six to twelve months approximately 1998-1999
Alcoholism – used heavily from age 24 to 32
• Voluntarily entered treatment program on April 21, 2008
• No recurrence of use of alcohol.
Arrests – All charges were related to the drug and alcohol use and were either expunged or I received probation before judgement. None remain on my record.
• Possession of paraphernalia – 1994
• Disorderly conduct and trespassing – 1997
• DUI – 2003
Potential mitigating factors
• Completely sober since 2008
• Excellent Credit
• Recently earned a Bachelor of Science degree – Magna Cum Laude
• Favorably adjudicated at Secret level - 2016
• Has stable job history since 2008
• Few foreign-born contacts
• History has been shared with several hundred people over multiple occasions while giving testimony at church.
Frankly I’m amazed you got a Secret, and congrats on the turn around—that’s commendable.
I’m not an expert but I reason that you have a good chance with the mitigating factors and holding a clearance responsibility (provided you’re not actively violating anything while holding a Secret).
Depending on the agency and such (i.e. you’re probably never going to get cleared to work for the DEA) if you make a good case and have strong references you should be fine. Law enforement agencies and positions may be a lot harder to get cleared for with an extensive drug and arrest history.
As per volunteering the information, fill out the forms accurately and abide by the scope of each question. Anything you reported when you applied for your Secret will likely be looked at (although I am not an expert nor an adjudicator so I don’t know for sure).
I’d wait for an expert or lawyer to determine if/how you should volunteer information that is out of scope. Generally, if the question gives a time frame you’re expected to adhere to that.
Time and demonstrated responsibility/commitment to change go a long way. You have both on your side. Hope this helps and good luck!
Read the questions on the forms carefully, and answer truthfully and completely. Don’t add anything else, it is not necessary for completing the forms.
Don’t be so sure about arrests not being on your record. Again, disclose whatever information is asked for in the questions.
You’ve already been through this once for the secret clearance, and it should be a similar experience for a TS. If these issues came up during that investigation, they’ll likely come up again. Based on your answers to the current SF-86/eQIP and the previous SF-86 (which the investigator should be able to access) the investigator may want to ask some more questions about the issues you have described. At that time you can go into all the details. But I would not advise voluntarily disclosing any information beyond what is asked for by the questionnaire.
I appreciate it. I made a lot of mistakes, and my hope is that they won’t follow me around forever. I know that’s a possibility though. A lawyer and a consultant I spoke with both counseled me not to volunteer anything if I’m not asked. They also advised that I not apply with law enforcement agencies, which I completely understand. A friend in PerSec said that the investigator’s typical final question, which is something like, “Is there anything else you think I should know”, is where I should disclose. If not, it could be seen as a lack of candor.
Great point on the arrests, and I should have clarified that up front. I did disclose those on prior investigations – Secret and public trust. The drinking came up during the ESI for the Secret, but beyond the drug use beyond the circumstances of the paraphernalia arrest didn’t come up.
The counsel you provided to not add anything is the same as a lawyer I spoke with. However, a friend in PerSec mentioned that the typical final question, “is there anything else you think I should know”, is a catchall to try and capture anything that was missed. That’s where I was wondering if I should disclose. The last thing I want to do is compound my past mistakes with a lack of candor.
The other point with Subject issues… you never get the whole story, and often not all of the issues, from a Subject.
A good investigator knows how to ferret information from Subjects and Sources. Often, this questioning saves the Subject from themselves because of what they think I want to hear and what they try not to say.
Interesting. From reading @Amberbunny2’s post, it sounds like the guidance is to disclose everything, but that it might be out-of-scope. Is that possible? It sounds like either an investigator might say, “Thanks for telling me, but that’s beyond the timeframe i’m investigating,” or an adjudicator might note the issue and overlook it based on whether the issue is within the timeframe. Am I reading that correctly?
Thanks for the insight. I should say that I disclosed the drinking and arrests, but not the other information because it wasn’t within the time frames of the questions. The drug involvement didn’t come up except for questions about the circumstances of the paraphernalia charge. Now I’m wondering if maybe I should have disclosed that information. So, your guidance as an investigator would be to disclose the rest of the information even though it’s beyond the 7 years? Would you suggest that I disclose that at the beginning of the interview, at the end, verbally, in writing?
You are responsible to read the questions carefully and provide the information requested by the SF86 (or 85).
If information is developed “out of scope” (this does not truly mean what most think it means) and there is a concern - you will be interviewed about that concern.
Problems arise because Subjects are told/think/believe/don’t believe/interpret wrong/play word games with the questions.
Ever for felonies, alcohol, etc means since the moment you gasped for air in your lifetime. Seven years means seven years from the date you signed your form. All employments means all employments/job locations. All residences for the last ten years means all residences where a Subject parked their rump for 90 days or more (or was a permanent residence, such as receIved mail)-NOT your parent’s or family residence or where your mail went for a year or your home of record.
So, volunteer everything? Not if you were not asked unless you believe there is something your investigator should know so there are no surprises. I have never told a Subject “um, stop, we don’t need to know about …” because I don’t know where the discussion will lead.
I’ve had Subjects upset because they lie to me and after several questions to get them the chance to ‘fess up they hear these words, "well, during the course of the investigation, we discovered…’’
NOTE: “scoping” is the basic (not end all) periods for different activities to give us (the security apparatus) enough information to determine the risk you present. Information developed “out of scope” could be a huge concern, such as multiple assaults and other arrests outside the seven year period because you had another law enforcement charge within the last seven years.
The word “issue” has a profession meaning that is also misunderstood by outsiders. You can have issues, heck, because of my past I have permanent issues, and still have a clearance.
That’s my advice. If it is out of scope, it is out of scope. But if it is of significant importance, or very close to in scope…wouldnt you rather a candidate speak to something? Sure, you can always say “it was out of scope,” if asked why you didn’t reveal something. But IMHO, that puts you behind the 8 ball. Honestly, candidly speaking to something is in your favor. If you give even a wiff of “hiding,” quibbling, or rationalizing something…its just not a good look
If a Subject is not sure they should ask. If the issue is close to the cut off - you should bring it up. If the issue was outside of scope and we discover it - you might still be interviewed, it just won’t be an additional Personal Conduct annotation because you were not required to provide the information.
Before you fill out your TS clearance SF 86 for consistency with the information you write down have your old SF 86 with you. The one you filled out for your secret clearance. Is this TS clearance required now for the job? Are you looking for a new job / promotion/ lateral move that required a TS clearance? Your life is going to be viewed under a microscope. I am proud that you turned your life around and mitigated your mistakes. But the reality is that you have had a complicated past. Your livelihood depend on your security clearance, If I were you I will seek professional clearance help to guide you with your SF 86. I don’t work for any of them. But search this forum or the internet. Read their reviews. Ask for a consultation but don’t give then any money until you have talked to at least 3 companies and compare what they are offering for the money. The lawyer in these firms are not your friends. It is a business transaction. But they are knowledgeable in the clearance process.
Answer the questions as asked and only as asked. Some drug use questions are within a particular time frame and some ask if ever. Carefully read the question being asked for each and every question. If you are asked about something within the last X number of years then yes or no should be within that context. If you are asked about in the last seven years and your last use was 12 years then the proper answer to that question is no. Period. If you are asked about ever then the proper answer is yes. There is absolutely no reason to “confess” to something you have not been asked to answer. There is a reason some questions are ever and some are within so many years. If asked about last X number of years that is because the government only cares about within those number of years. Answering other than no in such cases will only delay your decision while an interview is set up with you and wastes the time and money of the government as well.
Personally, I would also say no when asked if there is anything else they should know with regard to any question you already answered within the scope asked. My reasoning is they have already told you under what scope/situation they care about these things and you have answered them based upon the asked about scope. I think you tell them about anything that came up or changed between the time you completed the SF86 and the interview date not something that you did outside the scope of a question already answered and that hasn’t changed since you answered it.