Rumor or Reality #4: Being completely honest about prior drug use is a mistake

Rumor! And a really terrible one at that. We hear this rumor from every angle—from individuals who are deciding whether to disclose, to individuals who did disclose, to individuals who did not disclose and are wondering whether it was a mistake. First and foremost, applicants are required to sign security clearance applications under penalty of perjury. That should be the end of the discussion about whether to be honest but, if it was, we wouldn’t be here. So, here’s the deal— whether the government can trust you is the entire purpose of the background investigation. Sure, prior drug use may raise a concern, but that concern can likely be overcome, if not now, in the future. Lying, on the other hand, “strike[]s at the heart of the security clearance process” and is much more difficult to overcome. (And, yes, intentional omission is lying).

Take, for example, a recent case where the applicant lied about prior marijuana use, explaining that a co-worker, presumably with a clearance, told him that “you want to be honest, but you don’t want to be too honest because you say too much, you know, you might get denied your clearance,” and that “you shouldn’t say something if you don’t think it’s going to come up.” The applicant also explained that he thought it wasn’t relevant because he was “not that kind of person anymore.” Alas, you know how it ends—his prior marijuana use was overcome but he was denied a clearance for lying about it.

Still not convinced? Here are a few other decisions from DOHA in the last year:

At the end of the day, it won’t be your friend, your cousin, or the random guy on the internet explaining to a judge why you weren’t honest. It’s your application, your career, and your life. If you still have questions about this, or any other clearance issue, we are happy to discuss.

See the full Rumor or Reality series here.