Col. John E. Rothrock, 63, intelligence specialist


Colonel John E. Rothrock, an intelligence specialist and Air Force veteran, died of heart failure Nov. 25 at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Ruxton resident was 63.

Colonel Rothrock was born in San Francisco, the son of a merchant marine captain, and raised in Towson.

He was a 1960 graduate of Towson High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Hobart College in 1964. In 1975, he earned a master's degree in government and international studies with a certificate in Soviet studies from Notre Dame University.

Colonel Rothrock, who had been in the ROTC program at Hobart, was commissioned an officer in the Air Force in 1964. During his 26-year career, he completed tours of duty from 1968 to 1972 in Vietnam and later in Germany.

He also held intelligence assignments at the National Security Agency, CIA, the National War College in Washington, and at his 1990 retirement, was chief of Air Force Intelligence Planning. His decorations included the Bronze Star.

Since 1990, Colonel Rothrock continued working in defense-related initiatives. He had been director of the center for global strategic planning for SRI International, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company that conducts research and development for government agencies, businesses and foundations.

He later established his own consulting company, Strategic Technologies, Assessments, and Relationship Services. He was considered an expert on the former Soviet Pact and German government, friends said.

"John spent his entire life in intelligence, and most of his work was of a highly classified nature. And I know his various positions reflected the respect his colleagues around the world had for him. He was a behind-the-scenes figure who does the kind of work that protects the country," said Joseph R. Burkart, a friend of 50 years.

"He was a wide-thinker and hands-on intelligence officer whose first love was his country and the military, and he had significant impact on certain strategic decisions," he said.

"John was a valued source who became a valued friend. He was a brilliant guy who could provide perspective when you needed it," said Gregory L. Vistica, a former reporter who had covered national security issues for Newsweek and The Washington Post, and was later a producer for 60 Minutes II.

"He had begun his career as an interrogator in Vietnam, and it had left a lasting impression on him. He was dead set against torture and told people that it was counter-productive. He was later a CIA case officer in Germany," Mr. Vistica said.

"He was multitalented with many interests across the board and during his career had been involved with some pretty sensitive stuff. He was also an extremely ethical and honest guy who always called a spade a spade and at times annoyed his superiors," said Mr. Vistica, now a freelance writer.

Colonel Rothrock was a longtime member of a weekly discussion group composed of intelligence professionals, retired military officers and other government officials who met Wednesday evenings at the Officer's club at Fort Myer, Va.

"They'd discuss security and intelligence issues over beer, nuts and potato chips. And John could get quite animated because he understood these issues better than most people and how the government worked," Mr. Vistica said.

Colonel Rothrock also wrote widely on intelligence issues that were published by the Institute for Defense Analyses and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He also wrote opinions for Air University Review.

"John was a good friend who was loyal to a fault. He was a good-hearted man who loved children. He was also a very generous person who helped out those in need with loans," Mr. Burkart said.

Colonel Rothrock was a voracious reader whose hobby was reading about history, politics, sociology and intelligence issues.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 27 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 1108 Providence Road, Towson.

Survivors include his fiancee, Mary Greenwood of Ruxton; an uncle, Philip Weber of Bedford, Pa.; an aunt, "Bib" Hughes of Virginia Beach, Va.; and a cousin, Jack Weber of Baltimore.

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