A graduate school for aspiring spies and diplomats in Washington faces allegations that one of its former administrators manipulated male employees into sexually abusive encounters as part of their supposed recruitment into a clandestine government organization, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The allegations have prompted the resignation of the executive director of the Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security — who said she left to protest the school’s handling of the matter — and a $150 million lawsuit against the academy, two of its senior officials and the accused ex-administrator, Mark W. Levin.
The lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court on behalf of three men in their early-to-mid 20s, alleges that Levin, 72, a former special advisor to the school’s president, coerced them into sexually explicit physical examinations at his Arlington, Va., apartment, ostensibly to keep their jobs and advance their careers.
Levin answered his phone, but when a Post reporter identified himself, he said, “Goodbye, sir,” and hung up.
Officials at Daniel Morgan — a fledgling school that offers graduate programs in intelligence and national security to about 40 students — declined to comment. A communications firm released a statement on the school’s behalf:
“As soon as [Daniel Morgan] became aware of the allegations against Mark Levin, we immediately began a full independent internal investigation, reported the matter to law enforcement, and dismissed Mr. Levin. [Daniel Morgan] has zero tolerance for any unethical behavior within the institution. We are proud of the results we achieve on behalf of our students, and we look forward to continuing to focus on our core mission: educating, training, and developing leaders in the national security and intelligence communities.”
The victims allege that Levin led them to believe he was an agent of an unnamed clandestine agency involved in counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering; that the young men were his “recruits”; and that they had to engage in naked, physical inspections with him at his apartment as part of jobs and career training — and keep silent about it.
The men, who are given pseudonyms in the lawsuit, claim Levin subjected them to “quid pro quo sexual harassment,” which included “repeated, forced, invasive, deceptive, and humiliating touching and probing of their naked bodies and genitals.”
The victims argue that Daniel Morgan denied them their entitlement to employment and education free of sexual harassment, abuse and retaliation, in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act. The lawsuit cites the school’s own internal probe of Levin and alleges the school’s investigator interviewed more than ten other “young adult employees and interns of [Daniel Morgan], many of whom confirmed that they had been deceived and sexually abused in the same manner as [the plaintiffs].”
The lawsuit claims that the school failed to vet Levin’s background before hiring him, that it didn’t adequately supervise him, and that the school tried to dissuade one of the alleged victims from telling police — and then threatened to fire him when he later did alert authorities.
Levin has not been charged with a crime related to these allegations.
The lawsuit also names as its defendants Daniel Morgan’s board chairwoman, Abby S. Moffat, and its vice president and special counsel, Alan B. Kelly. Moffat is the CEO of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, which provides the school its primary annual revenue source of about $7 million.
Moffat and Kelly declined interviews with The Post.
Last week, the school’s executive director, Linda Millis, a former official with the NSA, CIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, resigned over the school’s treatment of the victims.
“I was surprised to learn that Mark Levin had been hired without sufficient due diligence and that no one really knew much about his background,” Millis told the Post.
Joseph DeTrani, the school’s president, said he, too, is leaving at the end of the month, but that his departure has nothing to do with the sex abuse allegations. DeTrani said Levin was already working at the school when he arrived in January 2016.
“Obviously, [Levin] conned these young men into believing he was something he was not,” DeTrani said in an interview. “That’s so tragic. We empathize with the students.”
Founded nearly three years ago, Daniel Morgan is seeking accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The tiny school occupies space on the seventh and part of the tenth floors of an office building at 1620 L Street NW, about four blocks from the White House.
In their lawsuit, the victims, whose lawyer is Tamara L. Miller, a former Justice Department deputy chief, say Levin tricked them into letting him shower them and inspect their genitals and other body parts.
“There was this pressure to do it, so I could get into this secret intelligence group one day,” a 25-year-old from Northern Virginia plaintiff said in an interview. “I had no reason to doubt him. I assumed he’d been vetted by everyone, including the foundation giving money to the school. If I told anyone what he was doing to me, he said I would never get any type of job in national security. He threatened to constantly surveil me and blacklist me from jobs.”
The lawsuit alleges that after the men submitted to Levin’s sexual demands, Levin “typically rewarded” them with “impressive-sounding job titles and salaries, regardless of their experience or qualifications.” But when the men began balking, Levin reduced their salaries, the lawsuit asserts.
In July, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs began expressing skepticism about Levin’s background to DeTrani, the school’s president, a former CIA officer who carried the rank of ambassador while serving as a special envoy for six-party talks with North Korea. DeTrani contacted several national security and law enforcement agencies to ask about Levin.
In a statement released to The Post, Heather Fritz Horniak, a CIA spokeswoman, said: “While we generally do not comment on whether an individual previously worked for CIA, we condemn in the strongest terms possible anyone who perpetrates abhorrent acts against young people or otherwise engages in illegal activity while purporting to represent the CIA.” The FBI declined to comment.
After school officials were briefed on the full scope of the victims’ allegations on Aug. 29, Levin was suspended. He was fired Oct. 3 while Daniel Morgan conducted its internal investigation, the lawsuit says.
Around the same time, the school contacted D.C. and Arlington police, alerting them to the “potential abuse” of a 17-year-old at the school, the lawsuit says. Kelly, Daniel Morgan’s vice president and special counsel, told authorities that an individual over 18 “may have been sexually abused,” but the school official deemed the contact “consensual,” the lawsuit says.
One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, the 25-year-old from Northern Virginia, said he filed a report with Arlington County police in November and gave detectives a copy of the executive summary of the school’s internal investigation.
In an interview, Arlington County prosecutor Theo Stamos said her office considered a potential charge of sexual battery “by force, threat, intimidation or ruse.” But it could not prosecute the case on that charge, she said, because it’s a misdemeanor with a one-year statute of limitation and the most recent alleged sexually abusive encounter with the Northern Virginia man occurred in early 2015.
The alleged victim still works at the school, but Moffat and Kelly, the lawsuit asserts, initially sought to fire him.
Instead, the lawsuit says, they have marginalized his job and the position of a second plaintiff at the school, “excluding them from important management and Board meetings...and by ostracizing, marginalizing, and diminishing [them] in their professional capacities at [Daniel Morgan].”
Julie Tate contributed to this story.