Concerns about Public Trust investigation (low-level security clearance)
June 25, 2014 8:49 PM   Subscribe

I am hoping someone here is knowledgeable about this issue. I work for a government contractor, and after a few months on the job was told that I need to undergo a Public Trust investigation. It's not really a security clearance per se...but it is very similar. I spoke with a consultant who used to be a gov't investigator, and also spoke to a security clearance attorney (just a brief free consultation).

Here's the problem - not sure if it's really a problem, but I'm a bit anxious about it. I have bipolar disorder, and for a time I had a hard time keeping a job because of it; I was NEVER fired or reprimanded for anything at all, but I quit a string of jobs without notice. Two of these jobs I was at for about 10 days, and two other jobs I held for just 2 days. They really weren't right for me, but I wasn't on the right medication yet and got super stressed out, which made things worse, so I just quit abruptly. The former investigator told me that this in itself should NOT be a disqualifying factor for me, as there was no misconduct or negligence on my part. However, I am worried it may seriously delay the investigation if I list every single one of these jobs. The gov't sends a "letter of inquiry" to each employer listed; I would guess that some of these people won't even reply and may not remember me. I am wondering if I should really list every single one of these jobs?? The attorney told me he wouldn't, but the former investigator said that it is "unethical" to omit anything. I asked if the government would really be able to find out about such brief jobs...i.e. are they going to check Social Security or IRS records? And he said that no, they will not do that for a Public Trust investigation. So the only way they would find out is if someone tells them...none of my personal references are aware of these jobs, so I don't see who would tell them anything. I am NOT looking for moral judgment here...just honest opinions about what to do. I actually feel stupid making people send out letters to employers I was with for two days. But if that's what I need to do, I will do it. NOTE: I have nothing else that is of concern for the investigation; no criminal record, delinquent debt, drug abuse, etc. Not even a speeding ticket. And my psychiatrist is willing to vouch for me if they question him about my mental health.
posted by Maggsie97 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The safe action is to list them, and they're certainly not disqualifying. The investigation would take forever anyway, and how much trouble the government goes to isn't really your problem. What you don't want is to go into the interview feeling like you have something to hide, or having to explain why you failed to disclose something.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 9:05 PM on June 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would suggest you stop posting about it on the internet. It is not improbable that you are asked whether you have posted on the internet about the job or investigation, and then you would have to disclose this post.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:09 PM on June 25, 2014

In any investigation, leaving something out is virtually always worse than the actual issue, assuming reasonably normal human issues, which bipolar-related job changes are. If there's one thing investigators see, it's a range of human behaviour and misbehaviour far wider than anything you've raised here, and they're predictably dismissive about behaviours that you feel are quite significant.
posted by fatbird at 11:44 PM on June 25, 2014

It is not improbable that you are asked whether you have posted on the internet about the job or investigation, and then you would have to disclose this post.

...and then what?

Maggsie97 - Just disclose them all. It'll take just about as long to check them all as it would to check a single one (they don't do them in sequence). And not disclosing is the bigger problem here, not the quick quits in your job history.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:58 AM on June 26, 2014

Thanks everyone. I was leaning toward putting all the jobs down, but just wasn't 100% sure. But compared to the issues many other people have (DUIs, debt, etc.), i don't think it's all that bad. And hopefully it won't delay things too much. As for someone asking me about my Internet post in an interview...not too worried about that. This is not a Top Secret clearance...I don't think they're going to take it that far! And I don't see anything that seriously wrong with asking this is's not like I'm hiding being fired for some serious offense. I just didn't know if it would be a waste of someone's time to post 2-day long jobs.
posted by Maggsie97 at 5:11 AM on June 26, 2014

Include everything, but don't sweat too hard. A public trust investigation isn't about finding out you're not perfect, it's about finding out how susceptible you are to exploitation. Secrets are the thing that make you susceptible.

And a public trust really isn't a very involved investigation. You'll be fine.
posted by joedanger at 7:17 AM on June 26, 2014

(Experience level: Throughout the 14 years of my career so far, I have held Public Trust positions as well as positions requiring much higher clearance levels.)

Include everything. Not doing so is a crime. In a Public Trust investigation, basically all they do is a criminal records check and a credit check. As long as you haven't been arrested, you'll be fine. Heck, they don't even care so much about the credit score anymore because in this economy nearly everyone has had some financial problems.

The government will not interview you or anyone else for anything below Top Secret. They will send Scantron forms to the people you've listed as people who know you well, your family, and your employers, asking them to fill the forms out and return them. They basically will ask "how long have you known Maggsie97?" and in what context. Also, "Do you have any reason to believe that Maggsie97 is untrustworthy?"

Even if you were going for Top Secret or higher, I wouldn't worry about something like this. You quit on your terms. You were not fired. You aren't afraid to get the help you need to take care of your mental health - they actually like to see that. There isn't any cause for concern here.
posted by tckma at 7:32 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much, everyone. These answers have helped me feel much better...I definitely plan to list everything, and will just let this go.
posted by Maggsie97 at 9:16 AM on June 26, 2014

The government will not interview you or anyone else for anything below Top Secret.

Maybe as a matter of course they don't interview below top secret, but they will interview you if anything hairy comes up. I had a 90-second interview about a foreign bank account I had when I was studying abroad. This was for a secret clearance. It was not a big deal.

The advice I've always heard and adhered to is error on the side of disclosure. The purpose of the clearance is not to make sure you're the perfect employee, it's to make sure you're not a crook or a likely subject for blackmail. The security officers are not making HR judgements. They probably don't even sit in the same building as the hiring authorities.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2014

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