Contemporary security practices pose a particular paradox in the relationship between law and norm. On the one hand, the institution of risk practices in advance of, and in place of, juridical decisions appears to have become the technical resolution of choice to the politics of targeted security in the ‘war on terror’. The risk calculus makes possible an array of interventions – from detention, deportation, or ‘secondary’ security to asset freezing and ‘blacklisting’ – that operate in place of, and in advance of, the legal thresholds of evidence and decision. And yet, this article demonstrates, it is not the case that law recedes as risk advances, but rather that law potentially both authorizes and contests specific modes of risk management. As risk practices in the war on terror operate on and through a distinctive and novel terrain of the uncertain future, the capacity of juridical intervention to contest the exposure of people to dehumanizing technologies itself faces new potentials and limits.