I promised to tell you how the U.S. Government conducts a background investigation, officially called a Single Scope Background Investigation, or SSBI. I mentioned that typically the SSBI is designed to verify or validate information that you entered into the SF 86, and that there are 15 points to it, with titles that identify the topics to be verified.
My company, Pitorri and Associates, LLC conducts background checks that resemble, but are not identical to the USG SSBI’s. Take a look at www.pitorriassociates.com/backgroundchecks.html, and www.pitorriassociates.com/skiptracing.html.
THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH….
There are basically two types of SSBI: the initial, or first one ever to be done on a person, and the PR, or Periodic Reinvestigation, usually done every five years. These are not designed to be confrontative, but they are intrusive (more about that in a moment.) The SSBI becomes confrontative when the subject of the investigation lies — either on the SF 86, or during the interview. It is not a good idea to lie to a Federal investigator….
The investigator conducts a subject interview (usually written as SUBJECT), one on one with the person being investigated. The investigator by this point has thoroughly read the SF 86 completed by the subject. He invites the person to review the document, and make any updates or changes. Then the interview begins. It is based on, and follows faithfully the line of questions that were asked (and answered) on the SF 86. Occasionally, the face to face answer to a given question contradicts the answer on the form. For example, on the form, the person has checked No to taking any illicit drugs, or any other drug abuse, or ever consulting with a mental health worker. During the interview, she (or he) reveals use of marijuana, abuse of painkillers, and having visited a psychotherapist for six months. This now becomes confrontational. I think you get the point.
DENIAL OR DECEPTION?
Otherwise, basic information is verifed with documentation. This includes date and place of birth, citizenship, current residence, current marital status. From my own experience as an investigator, I can assert that nine out of ten times, this part of the process takes, oh, maybe five minutes. Then there is that tenth one….
Here is a person whose command of English is minimal. (So who completed the SF 86 on your behalf? Show me your signature on this blank sheet of paper.) He cannot produce a driver’s license. (Considering that you live miles from public transportation, How do you get to work? ) He cannot produce an original birth certificate with a raised seal. (Please show me your passport. Oh, it is a foreign passport. Where is your American passport? Sorry, but if you cannot prove U.S. citizenship, then you are not eligible for employment with a security clearance.)
JUST THE TWO OF US
By the way, a one-one-one subject interview is exactly that. No third party presence is allowed. Two of the many things this accomplishes are total privacy, and elimination of an interpreter. If the subject insists on having a third party present, the interview is terminated right from the get-go.
Please understand that I am offering you merely a glimpse of the SSBI process. Believe me, there is much more to the admin side. Here are the first couple of points of the 15 required issues to be covered during an interview.
Alcohol. The key to understanding how this works lies in three little words: Recency, Frequency, and Duration. These elements play a major role in adjudication. When was the last time you drank alcoholic beverages? How often do you drink? How long have you been drinking (at this rate)? If you are 40 years old, and got drunk every weekend 20 years ago in college, that may be an indicator. If you have been drinking “only” two or three martinis at lunch five days a week for the last 10 years, that makes you a risk.
Drugs. I always handle the drug issue like this: There are 3 kinds of drugs that can be abused; over the counter, prescription, and illicit drugs. Sucking two weeds in college 10 years ago would be no big deal. Taking 800 milligrams of ibuprofen 3 times a day tells me that you have a different problem we need to discuss. Crack cocaine? Fuggetaboutit!
Next time: Criminal Activity, Emotional Health, Physical Health, Finances — and something different. A Body of Secrets reveals Misguided Missiles.