Sometimes you come across beige flags as a background investigator, things that make you go, “hmm…okay?” or things that make an applicant seem a little quirky.

Then you have the applicants with a definitive red flag. Or two, or three, or ten that could be cause of great concern through the security clearance process.

“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 number 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).”

We’ll spare the long novel of specific scenarios of alcohol abuse, cheating, drug dealing/abuse, and hiring a prostitute, but if you’re curious, you can view the full thread here.

Time can be a mitigating factor in security clearance decisions. Depending on the level of clearance and the nature of the incident or behavior that may disqualify an applicant, the amount of time that has passed since the incident or behavior occurred can be taken into consideration.

For example, if an applicant had a drug use problem several years ago and has since completed a drug rehabilitation program and maintained sobriety, the passage of time and evidence of rehabilitation can demonstrate a positive change in behavior and may be viewed favorably by clearance adjudicators.

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

We’ll cut to the chase on some of the questions the original poster is curious about.

  1. Have I done a good job stressing my mitigating factors? Unfortunately, a few months will likely not be enough time passed for a positive security clearance determination…considering there are even more issues hitting other adjudicative criteria.
  2. How should I frame my reformation story to maximize my chances of positive adjudication for clearance and suitability? The government understands that humans are humans, and even the most professional security clearance applicants may have a past filled with youthful shenanigans or skeletons that they’ll have to mitigate. But for this applicant, especially with an agency like the DIA that has some strict suitability requirements, should wait a few years to help their case.
  3. What questions will be asked in a CI polygraph? Will I be asked JUST about counterintelligence stuff and SF-86 stuff, or will I be asked about relevant things not on the SF-86, like academic dishonesty or drinking and driving without arrest? Anything is fair game for a polygraph, not just what is asked on the SF-86.

It is important to note that the passage of time alone may not be sufficient to mitigate all concerns related to an applicant’s suitability for a security clearance. Other factors such as the nature and severity of incidents or behaviors, the applicant’s candor and cooperation during the clearance process, and any evidence of ongoing risk factors or patterns of problematic behavior may also be taken into account.

Regardless of the issues, it’s always important to understand that security clearance issues are always considered in light or the whole person concept. A complex background with many foreign contacts will certainly create a lengthy path to a security clearance, but it doesn’t automatically spell denial.

This poster seems like an open book, so at least honesty won’t be their problem.



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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸