USAO security clearance question/dilemma

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USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:22 pm

I have an offer at a USAO for a 1L summer internship (not prestigious/major city), and I'm moderately concerned about the security clearance... I tend to stay away from drugs (know a lot of people who smoke pot regularly, but I usually decline) but I've heard that any drug use within the last year since you applied (which was the beginning of January 2011 for me) pretty much automatically disqualifies you. I don't remember the exact dates, but at some point between Jan - June 2010 I smoke pot maybe once and did a harder drug (stimulant) once. Before Jan 2010, I'd also done another stimulant twice before (around May 2009, and then the other time was several years before). Other than what I just listed, my record is clean. I haven't touched drugs since starting law school and don't plan to, and definitely feel really stupid for my past experimentation.

I'm not going to lie on my forms, so I'm wondering: do I have any chance of passing the security clearance?
I have another offer for a non-US-gov job. Should I just not even take the risk of not clearing and just turn down the USAO internship for the other one?

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fatduck
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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:24 pm

what type of clearance?

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:31 pm

fatduck wrote:what type of clearance?


OP here:
whatever's required for an unpaid 1L legal internship... I looked at various forms (SF-85 and supplements, SF-86) and they all ask about drug use and when, and also names of a ton of references of people who know you well and people who know you where you've lived that I presume they'll call to ask about it.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
fatduck wrote:what type of clearance?


OP here:
whatever's required for an unpaid 1L legal internship... I looked at various forms (SF-85 and supplements, SF-86) and they all ask about drug use and when, and also names of a ton of references of people who know you well and people who know you where you've lived that I presume they'll call to ask about it.

they're all going to ask about drug use, but in my experience SF-85P clearances (sometimes referred to as Public Trust Positions) are more likely to be denied for recent drug use than SF-86 clearances (this will be called secret or top secret). i don't know anything about USAO but if it's an SF-85P, which i suspect it is, you may want to take another position.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:39 pm

I currently work at a USAO and if you are undergoing the same bg check I had to do (my guess is you are, as interns have access to the generally same docs as everyone else) I think you will be okay. The thing about it is the investigator who did my bg check interview basically said they are looking for things you could be blackmailed for and instances where you broke the law. Drug offences if they are minor--she did not clarify what "minor" encompasses--will not disqualify you on their own if they are rare. I confessed to legally smoking pot overseas in the Netherlands and my bg check was still completed in record time. A colleague of mine confessed to smoking pot in the United States within the past year of his start date, and he was delayed for about three months.

However, if you are extremely risk averse and don't want to chance it affecting your position, I would think about taking the other position if it is equally good. I will add though that clearances are generally good for five years, so if you plan on working in gov, or for certain contractors, it can be a pretty great benefit.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I currently work at a USAO and if you are undergoing the same bg check I had to do (my guess is you are, as interns have access to the generally same docs as everyone else) I think you will be okay. The thing about it is the investigator who did my bg check interview basically said they are looking for things you could be blackmailed for and instances where you broke the law. Drug offences if they are minor--she did not clarify what "minor" encompasses--will not disqualify you on their own if they are rare. I confessed to legally smoking pot overseas in the Netherlands and my bg check was still completed in record time. A colleague of mine confessed to smoking pot in the United States within the past year of his start date, and he was delayed for about three months.

However, if you are extremely risk averse and don't want to chance it affecting your position, I would think about taking the other position if it is equally good. I will add though that clearances are generally good for five years, so if you plan on working in gov, or for certain contractors, it can be a pretty great benefit.

the rules aren't really rigid but if OP has used cocaine within the past year, which is what i inferred from his post, an SF-85P denial is very likely. that doesn't mean he's guaranteed to be denied, but it's a major risk.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:07 pm

According to my office, any drug use within 12 months is an automatic disqualification. My suggestion: call them and just say you have some questions about the background check. My office made sure to tell me that they wanted me to discuss any questions I had with them. It costs each office a ton of money to submit a background check, so it's in their interest to be open and honest about whether or not they think you will pass. Well, that's how my office put it anyway; other offices could operate differently, I suppose.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:According to my office, any drug use within 12 months is an automatic disqualification. My suggestion: call them and just say you have some questions about the background check. My office made sure to tell me that they wanted me to discuss any questions I had with them. It costs each office a ton of money to submit a background check, so it's in their interest to be open and honest about whether or not they think you will pass. Well, that's how my office put it anyway; other offices could operate differently, I suppose.

it's definitely worth asking, but keep in mind that your office is not the one that issues the clearance, it's OPM (who i used to work for) or DSS. they may legitimately not know, though they can probably give you a rough idea based on past applicants. or, more likely, they'll play it cautious and tell you that you'll be denied. then again, you should probably be cautious as well, so you don't end up unemployed for the summer.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:33 pm

OP here: thanks for all your thoughts.

Does anyone know - do they actually ask all the people you list for additional names? I'm just wondering how they do the entire process in the 3 or so months before you would begin working. If I've lived/traveled/worked abroad (not in any controversial countries), would that slow the process down, significantly?

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here: thanks for all your thoughts.

Does anyone know - do they actually ask all the people you list for additional names? I'm just wondering how they do the entire process in the 3 or so months before you would begin working. If I've lived/traveled/worked abroad (not in any controversial countries), would that slow the process down, significantly?

they will typically call your references and do a brief interview. then they will ask them for contact info for anyone else that may know you, and they will call some of those people who aren't on your reference list. they will probably call all previous employers.

will they do any of this in the 3 months before you start working? highly unlikely. the security person at your USAO can grant you an interim clearance which will allow you to work. honestly, you'd probably be done with your internship before OPM ever even touches your file. for this reason, i suspect that that the USAO might just reject your application because of the recent drug use (as a previous poster alluded to). i'm not even sure what happens if USAO gets back a denial of clearance for someone who has already completed their summer internship. i can't imagine it's good.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby A'nold » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:02 pm

:lol: at "stimulant." It doesn't make it less harsh to use word tricks like that.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I currently work at a USAO and if you are undergoing the same bg check I had to do (my guess is you are, as interns have access to the generally same docs as everyone else) I think you will be okay. The thing about it is the investigator who did my bg check interview basically said they are looking for things you could be blackmailed for and instances where you broke the law.

Interesting.

I'm a new poster in this thread. I've worked for a marijuana legalization lobby in the past, it is prominently listed on my resume, and so am not exactly 'blackmailable' over marijuana issues. Do you think this would disqualify me, or would the 'public' aspect of this render it a non-issue? Interested in any thoughts.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I currently work at a USAO and if you are undergoing the same bg check I had to do (my guess is you are, as interns have access to the generally same docs as everyone else) I think you will be okay. The thing about it is the investigator who did my bg check interview basically said they are looking for things you could be blackmailed for and instances where you broke the law.

Interesting.

I'm a new poster in this thread. I've worked for a marijuana legalization lobby in the past, it is prominently listed on my resume, and so am not exactly 'blackmailable' over marijuana issues. Do you think this would disqualify me, or would the 'public' aspect of this render it a non-issue? Interested in any thoughts.

he's referring to things like excessive debt, evidence of irresponsible gambling, drug addiction, family members/friends in at-risk locations overseas, etc. there is no way working for an mj legalization lobby would disqualify you.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Patriot1208 » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:33 pm

For a 1L internship it's just a standard background check, not a security clearance. No reason to spend the money needed for a few months. But, drug use that recently is going to disqualify you from most, if not all DOJ jobs.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby fatduck » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:35 pm

Patriot1208 wrote:For a 1L internship it's just a standard background check, not a security clearance. No reason to spend the money needed for a few months. But, drug use that recently is going to disqualify you from most, if not all DOJ jobs.

that makes a lot more sense.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:56 pm

Patriot1208 wrote:For a 1L internship it's just a standard background check, not a security clearance. No reason to spend the money needed for a few months. But, drug use that recently is going to disqualify you from most, if not all DOJ jobs.


as in, drug use will disqualify for a 1L internship, or just other post-grad DOJ jobs?
what's in a standard background check? i was getting the impression from previous topics/posts that even for a 1L internship it was still a security clearance/one of the SF-xx forms.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Patriot1208 » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Patriot1208 wrote:For a 1L internship it's just a standard background check, not a security clearance. No reason to spend the money needed for a few months. But, drug use that recently is going to disqualify you from most, if not all DOJ jobs.


as in, drug use will disqualify for a 1L internship, or just other post-grad DOJ jobs?
what's in a standard background check? i was getting the impression from previous topics/posts that even for a 1L internship it was still a security clearance/one of the SF-xx forms.


Both, recent drug use is almost always a disqualifier. Marijuana use in the past is usually fine, but usually not when it's recent. Hard drug use is even more strict, for you to be fine with cocaine use in your past it needs to be pretty distant. For the summer internship I believe it's a basic NACLC, which is credit check, residence check, criminal record, etc. Then they sprinkle in some elements of an SSBI, but they don't do a full SSBI. This means interviewing family members, friends, roomates, etc. But I think they stop pretty short for the summers, only interviewing a few people. For the full time position and the full SSBI they would interview quite a few people incluidng friends, roomates, landlords, neighbors, schoolmates, etc

The full SSBI is part of getting a Top Secret clearance, which most full time DOJ positions require. But, they just don't have the time, money, or care to go to far in depth for the 1L summers. But, if you have done drugs, don't lie, it can still come back to haunt you without you realizing it.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:36 pm

Sorry to necro this thread. I don't know why I didn't even think about this being an issue. Anyways I'm not a habitual user of any substance but have used marijuana once since starting law school. My understanding is that the best thing to do with fed employment is to be totally honest but they only give two lines on the form. I'm no Hunter S. Thompson character but I have tried more than 2 drugs in college and would rather not include an addendum or whatever. I haven't used anything other than marijuana in over 2 years.

ANYWAYS seems like marijuana use earlier this year will disqualify me and I'd rather not deal with filling out all the forms. Should I just call and tell them I don't think I qualify because of drug use? Should I be specific like yeah "i used marijuana in the past few months". I'd pass a drug test today and have no intention of doing drugs again, but would just rather not have to explain that I need more lines to list all the drugs I've tried. Any advice is extremely appreciated.

Just to clarify they've reviewed my resume etc. but need me to fill out these forms before I can interview. So I've gotten kinda far into the process and am looking for the best way to back out. Or if we don't think my recent drug use will be a factor let me know and I'll just go for it.

THANKS

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:44 pm

I am currently interning at a USAO's office and had to go through the same background check.

Here is the last question on the security clearance form:
In the last year, have you used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured illegal drugs? When used without a prescription, illegal drugs include marijuana, cocaine, hashish, narcotics (opium, morphine, codeine, heroin, etc.), stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.), depressants (barbiturates, methaqualone, tranquilizers, etc.), hallucinogenics (LSD, PCP, etc.). (NOTE: Neither your truthful response nor information derived from your response will be used as evidence against you in any subsequent criminal proceeding.)

If you answered "Yes," provide information relating to the types of substance(s), the nature of the activity, and any other details relating to your involvement with illegal drugs. Include any treatment or counseling received.

If you answer no, I think they will do very little interviewing. For what its worth, none of my contacts were called and my the same thing happened for my friend who works in this office.

In terms of who they ask you to put down: They have you put down a person to verify every place you have lived. You have to put down a supervisor for every job. You are also asked to put down three additional separate references. None of these can be family members.

The only other thing I can say is I do not advocate you lie on this form. You will likely be disqualified if you have used any hard (non-marijuana) drugs in the past year. If you have used marijuana in the past year, I can see that as a complete bar (but I have also heard stories of them calling in people and letting them in with recent marijuana use). This form did not ask at all about past drug use, so in that sense that would not come up. If you actually want to get hired, though, post-graduation it goes back 7 years. It is a huge amount of paperwork though, so before going through with it check to make sure you are qualified.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:11 pm

the form they gave me asks about the past 7 years. I've decided to just call tomorrow and ask. I feel bad like I wasted their time but I just totally didn't think this would come up for an internship. I thought they'd drug test but I really didn't think they were going to need my last 7 years. Haha that goes all the way back to high school!

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby kalvano » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:43 am

They've also upgraded the security clearance required for interns, starting this semester. It's essentially a "sensitive" level clearance.

I was told that drug use will bounce you, period. Northern District of Texas here.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:31 am

Can I tag on with a different BG check question? I got my paperwork to fill out today and I have no problems so far, especially on any of the forms the HR lady sent me. However, in the body of her email, she said I should advise her if I would answer yes to any of a short list of questions, so she can help me work on additional paperwork that will be necessary. They are all the drug, bankruptcy, conviction questions, but the last one is:

"In the last 7 years, have you consulted with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, etc.) or have you consulted with another health care provider about a mental health related condition? You do not have to answer "Yes" if you were only involved in marital, grief, or family counseling not related to violence by you."

I don't intend to lie either, but this is a little less absolute than whether you have or have not used a controlled substance. My short answer is that I have been undergoing counseling for a few years, and that was related to grief counseling and not related to violence by me. So the answer is no, right?

But, was it exclusively related to the grief counseling? No. On the one hand, I wouldn't technically be lying if I answered no. But, I also feel like I wouldn't be technically telling the truth either. In favor of over-disclosing is the idea that at the beginning of my legal career, I'd like to err on the side of being too broad rather than narrow in my interpretation of the question. On the other side, I really would rather take a fairly legitimate out in not having to do more paperwork and get into who knows what deep levels of disclosing my health issues when I may not have to. I mean, I don't even know what they are going to ask. Are they going to ask for a consent to speak to my counselors and have them disclose all my issues?

I can't decide if I should feel righteously justified in asserting that I fit into the "no" category or like I am taking advantage of interpretation issues to be squirrelly. If the former, I should say no and be proud. If the latter, I should say yes because I don't deserve to say no. The problem is, it is both! I feel righteous and squirrelly. What to do?

On a side note - Way to contribute to the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment, by associating it with abusing alcohol, controlled substances, convictions of crimes and bankruptcy.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby LeDique » Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:26 am

I would thinking calling to ask her would be the best course of action.

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:52 pm

So I asked the public interest office if full disclosure on these forms ever haunts anyone at c&f. She told me that she had heard of that happening and that I should talk to the dean of students about my situation. Guy at the office has called wanting my forms ASAP, I've had them since Monday. I don't get to meet with the dean of students until tomorrow. I don't want to blow this guy off but I also am not sure how to explain why it is taking so long. Any advice would again be greatly appreciated.
Thanks

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Re: USAO security clearance question/dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:53 pm

Sorry I'm above and I'm the guy with drug use not grief counseling




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