Meeting With Security Clearance Investigators
February 6, 2014
It is important to obtain legal advice prior to meeting with security clearance investigators when potential security clearance problems may arise. When individuals have difficulties in the security clearance process or anticipate future difficulties, the best advice that can be given is to prepare in advance for the meeting. Preparation for the first security clearance meeting can make the difference between a government contractor/federal employee successfully obtaining a security clearance or being denied a security clearance.
Preparation for the Initial Security Clearance Investigator Meeting
One of the most important considerations in meeting with a security clearance investigator for the first time is adequate preparation for the meeting, especially where there may be potential disqualifying security concerns. We find that most government contractors and federal employees have a general sense of potential issues that may arise at the time that they begin to review or complete their e-QIP/SF-86 submissions.
In the most common scenario, an individual is usually alerted to potential problems that may require preparation for the clearance process when they find that they may have to answer “yes” to a certain question and then provide formal disclosures to an uncomfortable question, such as an arrest for the use of alcohol and related driving offenses.
For example, suppose a clearance applicant has been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and has had to list “yes” under Section 22 of the SF-86 application. If recent, the arrest will usually generate questions from the security clearance investigator. The questions may range from the outcome of the arrest, the criminal proceedings, whether an alcohol problem exists and what efforts at counseling the individual has received, if any. The questions may be more detailed if there is a history of the same type of issues (i.e., previous driving under the influence arrests) or other related behavior. In either situation, sufficient preparation for the security clearance interview is important to a successful security clearance review.
Review and Gather Relevant Documentation
If a potential security concern exists, it is important to gather as much information and documentation one has on the issue of concern in preparation for the interview. Such information, if useful, can be provided to security clearance investigators at the start. At other times, the information can be useful for later in the clearance process, if needed.
For example, suppose an individual has an outstanding tax lien and has documentation regarding their tax issues, the reasons behind the lien, and his or her efforts to resolve his or her debts to the IRS. These types of documents may be important to provide early in the process to the investigator, depending on the nature of an individual’s security concerns. The information will certainly be important to review prior to a meeting with a security clearance investigator. In sum, when an individual knows that there are likely to be issues of concern with his or her security clearance, it is important to gather all of the relevant documentation related to the issue and then consult with an attorney to discuss the best method to present the documents to an investigator.
Respond Directly to the Questions Asked
In regard to meetings between government contractors/federal employees and security clearance investigators, one other issue that we run across is the tendency of some individuals to provide additional information not sought by an investigator. We advise government contractors and federal employees to answer the questions asked by investigators as honestly as possible but stick to the actual questions that are posed. On many occasions, individuals can get sidetracked or provide information that is not relevant to the questions asked by an investigator, which may cause clearance difficulties later or cause frustration for the investigator. The usual key to a successful interview is to be as responsive as possible to any areas of concern but to make the meeting with the clearance investigator as efficient as possible. Investigators tend to have many cases to review and like to focus on their particular areas of concern. The better an individual can address specific issues raised by an investigator efficiently, the better the potential outcome. When issues arise, it is important to consult with counsel to obtain the best legal advice possible in presenting one’s response to difficult questions.
Follow-up Interviews or Requests by the Investigator
A security clearance investigator may need additional information regarding potential security concerns or need to interview an individual a second time. We typically advise individuals to attempt to anticipate these requests in advance. For instance, if an investigator appears to have questions about one’s psychological issues during an initial interview, it may be helpful to attempt to obtain a letter from a medical professional soon after that shows that the psychological concerns are under control and have been resolved. Doing so in advance can save time and effort later and may resolve issues early should the investigator come back with additional questions.
When potential security clearance issues arise, it is important to obtain the advice of counsel where possible disqualification issues could arise. It is important to do so as early in the process as possible. Our law firm stands ready to advise individuals in the security clearance process, in addition to representing them as they proceed through the investigations process. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.