Helping Applicants Handle Interviews With Federal Investigators

After you submit a job application, you may be scheduled for an in-person interview with an investigator. Due to the large back-up of cases at the Defense Security Service (DSS), it can take more than a year before a case is even assigned to an investigator. However, if the level of clearance requested is Confidential or Secret, and the application contains no issues that require resolution, no investigation is required.

The purpose for the interview is for the investigator to assess whether you will be able to handle having access to sensitive classified information. The questions can be in-depth and deeply probing. At Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., we are available to assist you in preparing for the interview and understanding the types of questions you are likely to be asked. With more than 40 years of experience handling security clearance issues, you can rely on our lawyers to give you accurate, practical advice.

Understanding the Investigatory Interview

If you are seeking Top Secret clearance, you are likely to be put through the interview. Think of it as your chance to clarify any questionable events from your past, and make sure to be honest and thorough in your response.

The investigator can obtain credit reports and can run national agency checks that determine whether you have a criminal record. The rest of the information is gained through interviews with the applicant, names the applicant has listed anywhere on their form, visiting previous employers, and questioning personnel officials and those in individual's former chain of command.

In the interview with the applicant, the investigator typically will go over all of the questions and answers on the Personnel Security Questionnaire, and can expand the scope of questions. For example, even though a question on the application may instruct the applicant to limit the answer to the last 10 years, the investigator can expand the scope to the person's entire lifetime. The applicant cannot refuse to respond on the grounds that the questionnaire only asked for information about the last 10 years.

Of course, an applicant can refuse to answer questions, but that will lead to denial of the clearance. The security officials take the position that being granted a clearance is a privilege, not a right, and that you must cooperate with the investigative process. In this regard, the applicant has the right to rely, for example, on your Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself, but that will generally result in the denial of a clearance.

Contact a D.C. Security Clearance Investigation Attorney

If you have questions about the security clearance investigation and interview, or any other aspect of security clearance approvals and denials, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you. Call Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., at 202.331.9260 or contact our Washington, DC, law office online.