This article traces the historical foundations of current security legislation as the matrix of citizenship. Examining Israel’s new Counter-Terrorism Law against the backdrop of security legislation in India, its main proposition is that these laws and their effects are rooted in colonial emergency regulations and the bureaucratic mechanisms for population control developed therein, rather than in the ‘global war on terror’. The article offers an organizational vantage point from which to understand the development of population-classification practices in terms of an ‘axis of suspicion’ that conflates ‘political risk’ with ‘security risk’. Through an account of the formalization of emergency laws, it explains the effects of colonial bureaucracies of security upon independent regimes seeking legitimacy as new democracies by tracing decisions regarding the use of an inherited arsenal of colonial and settler-colonial practices of security laws for population management, particularly mobility restrictions, surveillance and political control. One of the most important of these effects is the shaping of the citizenship of targeted populations by security laws.