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Political Science ’16
Gabriel Brison-Trezise ’16 spent the summer before his junior year investigating one of the most important constitutional conflicts in American democracy: the public’s right to know versus the government’s occasional need for secrecy. More specifically, he examined the U.S. government’s use of the Espionage Act to prosecute leakers of classified information such as Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden.
“I was intrigued by the interplay among the government, leakers and press,” said Brison-Trezise, a political science major and aspiring journalist from Thetford, Vt. “I wanted to explore whether leaking classified information could act as an effective and acceptable check on executive power.”
Brison-Trezise tackled his project — titled “Obama, Snowden and the Espionage Act: Leaks and the Law in America” — as a Democracy Scholar for the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD). The center awarded him a stipend and free campus housing to participate in the program, its Democracy Scholars Program, which gives students the opportunity to work in close collaboration with a faculty mentor on an important topic in American democracy.
“The program allowed me to work virtually whenever I pleased and paid me to study a subject I’m passionate about,” Brison-Trezise said. “Needless to say, it was a great experience. Each day enhanced my knowledge of a complex issue a little more.”
His research included regular meetings with John Elliott, Harry M. Clor professor of political science, who suggested reading materials, provided historical context, reviewed his writing and challenged his assumptions. “He made me a more careful thinker and writer,” Brison-Trezise said.
His research culminated in a public presentation of his paper during Family Weekend in mid-October. He concluded that “while leaking can sometimes pose a threat to operational security — if it exposes the identities of undercover agents working in dangerous locales, for example — those who’ve been prosecuted for leaking have generally done a great service by shining a light on government wrongdoing.”
In addition to his work with CSAD, Brison-Trezise is a member of the Kenyon College Chasers — the oldest a cappella group on campus — and, with Henri Gendreau ’16, co-editor of The Collegian Magazine, which launched in 2014.