April 22, 2007
Paul Leventhal, 69, a former journalist and one of
Washington's sharpest critics of nuclear weapons proliferation, died
April 10 at his home in Chevy Chase, after losing his battle with
cancer. In 1981, Mr. Leventhal founded the Nuclear Control Institute,
serving as president of NCI until 2002, after which he continued to
devote himself to writing, speaking and warning anyone who would listen
about the dangers of nuclear proliferation. We didn't always agree with
Mr. Leventhal and NCI, who have been broadly skeptical of civilian
nuclear energy -- something we support. But we have long admired their
work in exposing the dangers of nuclear proliferation.
In the final years of his life, Mr. Leventhal devoted a great deal of time and energy to the the latter issue -- warning that nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states like Iran and North Korea pose a danger to U.S. national security. In fact, he was so troubled by the Iranian threat that he joined hawkish experts such as Maj. Gen Paul Vallely and Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney in 2005 in signing a statement suggesting the possibility of military action if Tehran refused to end its nuclear weapons programs.
Mr. Leventhal had a long and diverse professional career. After a decade of political reporting for the New York Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Newsday, he came to Capitol Hill in 1969 as press secretary to Sen. Jacob Javits. He would spend the bulk of the next 12 years working for members of Congress, serving as special counsel to the Senate Government Operations Committee and as staff director of the nuclear regulation subcommittee. Mr. Leventhal was responsible for investigations that led to the enactment of two landmark laws during the 1970s, among them the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, which established stricter controls on U.S. nuclear trade in order to combat the spread of nuclear weapons. He also served as co-director of the bipartisan Senate special investigation of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident. During the past few years, he was tireless in his efforts to highlight the threat posed by nuclear weapons in Tehran's hands, which included pushing the lethargic IAEA into taking a more assertive stance on demanding access to Iranian nuclear sites.
In our experience, however, the best thing about Mr. Leventhal was the way he carried himself -- with extraordinary dignity and class. He wasn't interested in spin, and he was very candid in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of his own side's arguments. There were no histrionics or fevered denunciations of rival experts who interpreted events differently. Instead, he would tell you matter-of-factly what he believed, and how he reached those conclusions. Paul Leventhal was an admirable man.