The systematic study of political trials and national security measures tends to be associated with the old-fashioned genre of 'state trials'. Although whiggish or critical reductionism has since tended to prevail, recent social historical work on protest movements, ideology, and rights struggles opens up fresh approaches. The current scholarly shift of attention away from the repressive powers of the state to plural sites of power, while representing an advance, also threatens to relegate the area to neglect. The modern renewal of national security measures can in fact be seen as part of a more complex deployment of law and linked to current debates around state formation, governmentality, and citizenship. As the late modern state is eroded from above by globalization, and from below by demands of identity politics and differentiated citizenship, will such repressive measures be revealed as an anachronism or continue as a final resource of the state in crisis?