As the person who reviews the comments posted to articles at ClearanceJobs.com, I can tell you the clearance process produces a lot of questions. Despite efforts to make the security clearance application (SF-86) more understandable, oftentimes questions remain as to what to include – and what not to.
It seems Steve Jobs had the same problem.
Documents related to Jobs’ security clearance continue to be released by Wired, who requested them through a Freedom of Information Act request. (Some have been surprised to learn that SF86 information has been deemed publicly releasable, and wonder if the same would hold true for the average citizen).
Wired reported that Jobs had not included a 1975 arrest for a traffic infraction on his Personnel Security Questionnaire. When investigators found the arrest and interviewed Jobs, he said he hadn’t included it because he didn’t consider the minor incident an “actual arrest.”
Like other security clearance applicants who face a difficult clearance process, Jobs had to provide a written response to clearance concerns. In it he outlined his occasional drug use and purchase of drugs, the traffic infraction, and even how he constructed a Blue Box device at the age of 14, which was capable of making long-distance phone calls.
The Jobs security clearance files point to both how complex the security clearance process can be as well as how critical it is to be completely forthcoming on any illegal activity. Most issues – from drug use to criminal conduct – can be mitigated over time. But failing to include such details on your SF-86 will cause investigators to question your honesty, not your memory.
If you can’t remember how often you used drugs or if you don’t know if that run in with police at a bar in college was really an “arrest” air on the side of inclusion, rather than leaving it out. Then take the time to explain the incident in question.
Also keep in mind that if your behavior was particularly egregious, you’ll want to bring in a few character statements from those who can confirm you’ve changed your ways.
Jobs eventually got his top secret security clearance.