AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

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AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:14 pm

I've posted elsewhere and received a variety of responses (and have read DOD clearance appeals and the like as well) but am hoping to get some sort of definitive answer from someone who has been through or is familiar with the process, which basically relies on someone checking the board near posting--though I am absolutely aware that it will vary from office to office and of other idiosyncrasies. And yes, I've run the searches and simply don't benefit form the conversations on whether drug use precludes you, etc.

In short and candidly, I got a DUI while in law school, which was almost 7 years ago. There were some mitigating factors, no injuries or property damage, but it was not pled down to a traffic violation and is a straight DUI. Obviously, no issues since. (As far as before, freshman year of college minor in possession, expunged, etc.) Since then I've had two federal clerkships and worked in big law. I've yet to have any major issues with those background checks, and obviously no character and fitness issues (other than the extra interview to show allocution or whatever). Now looking to go to AUSA. Think I have a decent chance resume and network wise but am unsure about the background check. While most people seem to think I will pass, I am uncertain of the process.

- Are applicants usually asked about this prior to their offer or in interview (if so, I would assume most offices would write me off rather than take a risk, given the qualified candidates)
- if given an offer, is the background check completed prior to beginning employment, or while you are working in the office? if prior, are you unemployed/just waiting for the check to be cleared?
- if while working, anyone with experience about if i will be let go after the 12-14 month period pending background check?

If this is TL;DR or TL to respond to, I will also gladly take someone who is informed saying: "stay in big law, won't happen" - just trying to plan accordingly.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:05 pm

I am not an expert, I have not experienced it myself, but I know people who have I've done some research. To answer your questions in order.

1 Any security clearance job will have a 2 step process. First is like any other employment review you've done, 2nd is nothing like it. To illustrate, if you list former employers as references, they will call and ask about the caliber of your work, team play, etc. No matter whom you list, the DOJ and then OPM will contact all employers going back 10 years to ask if you seemed to live beyond your means, ever showed up drunk, seemed too friendly with foreign agents, and so on. On the 2nd call your employer can say that you're smelly and stupid; doesn't matter, the 2nd call only cares about whether you're a threat to national security.

2 AUSAs get 2 background checks. The first is done by the DOJ and takes a few months. The second is by OPM and can take a year. You typically begin working after the 1st and the 2nd goes on while you're working for the DOJ. And yes, I've worked with 2 incoming AUSAs who just kept working at the current job while the DOJ did their check. You could quit, I suppose, but I don't know why you'd want to be unemployed for an uncertain amount of time.

3 From reviewing the ALJ decisions on point, I don't think it's futile to apply, but I wouldn't say it's automatic, either. People with multiple DUIs pass, as long as they effectively mitigate the concern. In the opinions I've read, a favorable prognosis seems to do a lot of work in mitigating.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am not an expert, I have not experienced it myself, but I know people who have I've done some research. To answer your questions in order.

1 Any security clearance job will have a 2 step process. First is like any other employment review you've done, 2nd is nothing like it. To illustrate, if you list former employers as references, they will call and ask about the caliber of your work, team play, etc. No matter whom you list, the DOJ and then OPM will contact all employers going back 10 years to ask if you seemed to live beyond your means, ever showed up drunk, seemed too friendly with foreign agents, and so on. On the 2nd call your employer can say that you're smelly and stupid; doesn't matter, the 2nd call only cares about whether you're a threat to national security.

2 AUSAs get 2 background checks. The first is done by the DOJ and takes a few months. The second is by OPM and can take a year. You typically begin working after the 1st and the 2nd goes on while you're working for the DOJ. And yes, I've worked with 2 incoming AUSAs who just kept working at the current job while the DOJ did their check. You could quit, I suppose, but I don't know why you'd want to be unemployed for an uncertain amount of time.

3 From reviewing the ALJ decisions on point, I don't think it's futile to apply, but I wouldn't say it's automatic, either. People with multiple DUIs pass, as long as they effectively mitigate the concern. In the opinions I've read, a favorable prognosis seems to do a lot of work in mitigating.


Thanks - incredibly helpful. I would think that 7-8 years post would be enough to, especially given some of the DOD opinions that are much much worse, but who knows. Would still be interested to hear if anyone knows about whether it will come up in interviewing. I know that SDNY asks about it on the application, but have not seen that elsewhere, and I know the feds are attempting to stray from that practice for a variety of reasons.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:52 pm

Not OP. A specific question I have is what happens when the internal agency check comes across a close call. DUI that week is obvious, but old DUI seems likely to eventually pass. How long would that kind of thing hold up the first check?

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby andythefir » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks - incredibly helpful. I would think that 7-8 years post would be enough to, especially given some of the DOD opinions that are much much worse, but who knows. Would still be interested to hear if anyone knows about whether it will come up in interviewing. I know that SDNY asks about it on the application, but have not seen that elsewhere, and I know the feds are attempting to stray from that practice for a variety of reasons.


I think anyone trying to get into SDNY (or any other head-spinningly difficult office to crack) would be better served getting in elsewhere and transferring. Then you'd have substantive AUSA experience, already have passed the background check, and already be in the system.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 7:15 pm

FWIW, no, none of these things come up until after you've been offered and accepted - only then will they initiate a background check. There was a point in my interview where someone told me that the only dealbreakers were post-bar drug use, defaulting on student loans, and failure to pay taxes. I'm not sure if that was intended in part as an opportunity for me to bring up anything that might raise issues, though they didn't expressly ask me anything (I am intensely boring so had nothing to bring up). But you don't officially inform them of anything until you're filling out the background check paperwork after accepting an offer.

I will differ a little with the above on the 2-stage thing - I'm pretty sure I wasn't able to start until the whole check was completed. I don't know if the fact that I was an honors hire made a difference, though (the timeline is different). But in any case, you simply can't start work until your check is done (at least the DOJ one if all offices do the 2-stage thing). So you can keep working at your previous job or loll about the house, but you can't do anything in/for your office until officially employed post-background check.

I don't think an old DUI is going to preclude you, but I'm sorry, I can't confirm that from any personal experience.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 7:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I will differ a little with the above on the 2-stage thing - I'm pretty sure I wasn't able to start until the whole check was completed. I don't know if the fact that I was an honors hire made a difference, though (the timeline is different). But in any case, you simply can't start work until your check is done (at least the DOJ one if all offices do the 2-stage thing). So you can keep working at your previous job or loll about the house, but you can't do anything in/for your office until officially employed post-background check.


Absolutely, you need to finish a check before you can touch anything classified, and that check has to be complete before you can start. But there is a 2nd check done by a different agency. For example, one AUSA friend had an OPM guy knock on his parents' door a year after he started because that second check was still ongoing, when the DOJ had called all his references weeks before starting.

Would you mind going into some depth as to what the interview is like?

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I will differ a little with the above on the 2-stage thing - I'm pretty sure I wasn't able to start until the whole check was completed. I don't know if the fact that I was an honors hire made a difference, though (the timeline is different). But in any case, you simply can't start work until your check is done (at least the DOJ one if all offices do the 2-stage thing). So you can keep working at your previous job or loll about the house, but you can't do anything in/for your office until officially employed post-background check.


Absolutely, you need to finish a check before you can touch anything classified, and that check has to be complete before you can start. But there is a 2nd check done by a different agency. For example, one AUSA friend had an OPM guy knock on his parents' door a year after he started because that second check was still ongoing, when the DOJ had called all his references weeks before starting.

Would you mind going into some depth as to what the interview is like?

Not to beat a dead horse, but all the in-person interviews were done before I started, too. Everyone I know in my office had people (all retired FBI) meet their references/prior employers/etc in person before starting - it wasn't just calls from DOJ, and I've never heard of anyone having people get contacted after they started working (though obviously it happens, so there must be some variation).

The interview is really basic and simple and non-threatening - at least, it was for me; but again, I'm very boring, so I really had nothing to disclose - no convictions, no arrests, no illicit drug use (no, seriously, none except underage drinking in college, which didn't come up). I have a lot of foreign contacts so I know he asked me all about that. I can't swear to this for certain, but I think the purpose really is just to make sure the answers that you give a live person are the same as what you put on the form - all I remember is him going through the questions I'd already answered on the SF-86.

The really funny thing is I got the tiniest inkling of why people might confess falsely. There's something weird about getting asked stuff by someone in authority. The guy asks "have you ever used illicit drugs?" and I say "no," and then there's this little voice in my head going, I don't *think* I have...am I forgetting something? what if I did and I'm leaving it out? am I lying? AHHHHH.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2016 2:42 pm

Any reason I should tell my recommenders, particularly former AUSAs or judges I've clerked for? Just don't want them to feel they've vouched for someone hiding an arrest (even though it's not hidden, obviously disclosed to HR, etc.).

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2016 4:38 pm

This is pure speculation, so make of it what you will: I don't think the interviewer is likely to ask your references about whatever it is in your past unless it's something that you absolutely would have disclosed to them in the normal course of events. So, like, for a criminal conviction they would check your law school/bar apps to make sure that you disclosed it. I doubt they'd start asking your personal references whether you had ever told them about it, though, and would instead just ask them about stuff they know that person can talk about (how long they've known you, working with you, etc.). I don't think there would be any point in them asking a reference "Did anon ever mention X?" if you weren't required to tell them about X - they want to make sure that the answers on your application are correct and that's not really the way to go about it.

But like I said, this is just my gut reaction.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This is pure speculation, so make of it what you will: I don't think the interviewer is likely to ask your references about whatever it is in your past unless it's something that you absolutely would have disclosed to them in the normal course of events. So, like, for a criminal conviction they would check your law school/bar apps to make sure that you disclosed it. I doubt they'd start asking your personal references whether you had ever told them about it, though, and would instead just ask them about stuff they know that person can talk about (how long they've known you, working with you, etc.). I don't think there would be any point in them asking a reference "Did anon ever mention X?" if you weren't required to tell them about X - they want to make sure that the answers on your application are correct and that's not really the way to go about it.

But like I said, this is just my gut reaction.


Yea, I totally agree, was more thinking of, say: personal recommendation to someone at the office they used to work at or something, then down the line it pisses them off. Thanks.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby droopy999 » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:43 pm

My experience: It is at the US attorney's discretion whether they will hire you, and they are allowed to consider your criminal background in whether to hire you. I had applied for an externship for the AUSA civil division and was asked by my interviewer if I've had background issues, to which I disclosed. One more thing to note is that if you do submit the background check form, it becomes accessible to all federal agencies.

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby andythefir » Sun Dec 04, 2016 5:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This is pure speculation, so make of it what you will: I don't think the interviewer is likely to ask your references about whatever it is in your past unless it's something that you absolutely would have disclosed to them in the normal course of events. So, like, for a criminal conviction they would check your law school/bar apps to make sure that you disclosed it. I doubt they'd start asking your personal references whether you had ever told them about it, though, and would instead just ask them about stuff they know that person can talk about (how long they've known you, working with you, etc.). I don't think there would be any point in them asking a reference "Did anon ever mention X?" if you weren't required to tell them about X - they want to make sure that the answers on your application are correct and that's not really the way to go about it.

But like I said, this is just my gut reaction.


But they would ask about drug use/drinking right? From the published opinions it seems like drugs go: drug use disclosed either on the SF86 or a criminal case, then investigators ask how long ago, how frequent, and so on. Alcohol seems to go: DUI/formal discipline for drinking/rehab leads check to dig deep into drinking behaviors. So for anon, specifically, wouldn't they grill the references re drinking if there was a DUI in the past?

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Re: AUSA Background Check, Procedures, Interview

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:53 pm

Yeah, they'll probably ask about drinking, but I don't think they'd specifically ask your references "did you know this person had a DUI," they'd just ask whether they saw any problems with the person's drinking. Mostly I was responding to whether you should tell your references about something in your past, and I don't think if someone is going to get asked about your drinking it means you should tell them about a DUI.

But again, I'm spitballing here.



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