Alumni Profile: Michael LeVine (CAS ’02)
January 15, 2023
Special Agent Michael LeVine (CAS ’02) recently worked in a liaison, advisory, and security capacity to protect the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team at the World Cup in Qatar. Overall, his role within the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State consists of planning and implementing U.S. Government global security operations and investigations.
“I’ve received some of the best training available in the federal government, have been on dozens of exciting and dangerous assignments, and have had the opportunity to serve alongside some truly amazing colleagues doing things that I will remember for a lifetime. I’ve lived overseas, learned new languages, and seen history unfold in front of my eyes,” says Special Agent Michael LeVine (CAS ’02). For 14-plus years, LeVine has worked as a special agent for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and done investigative, surveillance, and security work for the U.S. Government, work he thoroughly enjoys. LeVine says he feels grateful to be part of a department and attributes his time at NYU for greatly influencing his career trajectory. LeVine majored in metropolitan studies at the College of Arts and Science, and then went on to work at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Office of the Inspector General.
His investigative experience, as well as his time studying abroad in Buenos Aires, led SA LeVine to seek out opportunities on a federal government level, where he could get the chance to live overseas and still serve and protect the United States. Now as part of the DSS, he’s had the chance to meet world leaders, oversee security operations at U.S. embassies, learn new languages, travel to more than two dozen countries, and most recently, protect the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team at the World Cup Qatar.
Read more about SA LeVine’s fascinating career path from NYU to the DSS:
What did you study at NYU and how has your NYU education helped you in your career?
I majored in metropolitan studies, which examines how urban environments, planning, architecture, identities, and space all interact to create the urban experience. I grew up living in and loving “the city” (New York City, of course!), so it was a great major. Choosing that major had an impact on my career path in that “met studies” students were required to do an internship for a semester at a government agency, non-profit, or other related organization. With the assistance of the director of the metropolitan studies program, I was fortunate to get an internship at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Office of the Inspector General. This internship led to the MTA offering me a job offer following my graduation from NYU. I accepted and I worked there for eight years conducting audits and investigations of MTA operations. It was exciting to be working in an oversight capacity at the largest transportation network in North America, especially since I had grown up riding the Long Island Railroad and the NYC Subway. My investigative experience in this role led me to seek out investigative opportunities at the federal government level, which led me to the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. Additionally, my semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina was another piece of my NYU education that impacted my decision to have a career in the Foreign Service.
Was there a moment you knew this was what you wanted to do? How did you figure out this path?
During my years at the MTA Office of the Inspector General, I found I had a passion and love for doing investigations. The work was exciting—examining multi-million-dollar contracts for fraud, doing interviews, conducting surveillance, uncovering the truth—it felt fun to go to work! In addition, getting to work with colleagues who had served in the NYPD, or as federal agents, was a thrill–they all had fascinating stories and a great sense of humor. After eight years at the MTA, it seemed like a good time to look for the next step in my career, and that is how I became interested in a career in federal law enforcement as a special agent. I wanted to apply my investigative experience to roles in the U.S. Government. As I began to explore special agent opportunities, I discovered the Diplomatic Security Service. DSS is the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State, and it has the largest global presence of any U.S. federal law enforcement agency.
What are some other elements of working for the DSS that drew you to this job?
I was drawn to the Diplomatic Security Service because it combined the opportunity to do investigations (DSS is the lead investigative agency for passport and visa fraud) with other exciting responsibilities—living and working overseas, learning new languages, serving in a diplomatic role, overseeing security operations at our embassies, doing protection—it seemed like a dream job and an incredible way to serve our country. One of my good friends gave me sage advice as I was deciding whether to accept the offer from DSS—he said, “if you take this job, you will get to see the world from a front row seat.” And he was absolutely right—it’s been an amazing ride.
What makes you excited about going to work each day?
I am excited about going to work every day because I know my work has an impact. It is satisfying to serve our country, our nation’s diplomats, and the State Department. DSS is accountable for keeping State Department employees, facilities, and information safe, and each day brings a new, unexpected challenge. Our teams operate in all environments, from fully developed “first world” locations to some of the most austere places on the planet—and this is what I love about the job—that my colleagues and I are expected to be dynamic, resourceful, and committed to accomplishing the mission.
Special Agent LeVine meets a giraffe up close and personal during his tour in Zimbabwe.
Has your job led to interesting travels? If so, what are some memorable things you have seen?
Yes! I have had long-term assignments to Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and Colombia, and have had temporary assignments to more than two dozen other countries. I recall meeting world leaders, supporting protective operations in New York City during the UN General Assembly, traveling to remote regions including jungles, deserts and mountainous regions, and so many other events. Just as vivid, though, are some of the tragic things my teams have worked on and responded to including massive loss of life due to an earthquake in Haiti; the aftermath of terrorist attacks, kidnappings, human trafficking, and hostage taking. I think all of them are memorable, and meaningful, but just in different ways.
Can you walk us through a typical day on the job?
Each role in my 14-plus-year career with DSS has been different. When I’m posted at an embassy, a normal day would involve meeting with senior leadership to discuss security operations, working with locally employed staff to implement security plans, serving as liaison to host nation officials and security professionals from other embassies, planning security operations and logistics for a special event, and responding to requests for information from Washington, D.C. headquarters. In other roles, I’ve focused on threat investigations and a day’s work would include assessing the specificity and credibility of a threat, working with local law enforcement to assess risk, and instituting strategies to counter and mitigate a threat. What I really like about the job is the variety—we stay in a role for one to three years, and then get to do something else—that’s one of the best parts about being in the Foreign Service.
How did the liaison, advisory, and security efforts to protect the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team go at the World Cup? We’d love to know more about your experience there.
It was truly exciting and an honor to support security operations at the World Cup which has always been one of my favorite sporting events. I think the overall operation went great—there were daily interactions with Qatari security and law enforcement counterparts, input from the private sector, and a wide array of support from the U.S. Government. My small team’s role was to ensure the security of movements for the USMNT including making sure the practice facilities, stadiums, and hotel were safe and secure. I think Qatar did a great job preparing for the World Cup—it adopted major event best practices from European law enforcement models and executed well.
What is something unique to your role that you would like to share with your fellow alumni?
This is a job that offers rewards, but also requires sacrifices. I’ve received some of the best training available in the federal government, have been on dozens of exciting and dangerous assignments, and have had the opportunity to serve alongside some truly amazing colleagues doing things that I will remember for a lifetime. I’ve lived overseas, learned new languages, and seen history unfold in front of my eyes. However, these rewards also come with sacrifices that anyone in the Foreign Service is aware of—spending years away from friends and family, missing important events, and enduring environments that are unhealthy and unsafe. Nonetheless, the rewards of the job far outweigh the sacrifices. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with DSS over the years. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What’s one thing you haven’t tackled yet that’s still on your career or life to-do list, short- or long-term?
One thing on my career to-do list that I still want to accomplish is to continue learning and expanding my knowledge to become a technical expert in my field. I am fascinated by the intersection of digital technology, data, and security and I believe that having a deep understanding of global security operations coupled with technical expertise in digital tools, technology and data science can deliver benefit to DSS and the Department of State—artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data-driven analytics will deliver a positive impact to the DSS mission. Aside from career aspirations, on a personal level I’d really love to spend some time at some of the best ski locations in the world and then visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
Would you please share your most memorable moment(s) from NYU?
Gosh, there are so many! I have vivid memories of NYU orientation—the August after I finished high school and was getting ready to move on to university—it represented a new phase in my education and in my life. During orientation, we resided in NYU dorms for a few days and I got to meet so many exciting people, and hear about all the classes I’d be taking—it was just a moment of absolute joy for me—a great time in my life that I will only get once. I remember long study days in the architecturally magnificent Bobst Library, walking the streets of lower Manhattan, hearing professors who were experts in their field provide new and interesting perspectives. And then there was the amazing experience of spending a semester studying at the NYU Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina—the history, culture, cafes, food, friends, soccer—the study abroad experience was incredible, and it led to my lifelong love of travel and experiencing other cultures. I feel fortunate to have gone to NYU, and I owe so much of where I am today to the university.