The Volokh Conspiracy

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Motion to Seal the Saudi Crown Prince's WhatsApp Number

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

There's something you don't see every day; looks reasonable to me as a legal matter, but struck me as worth noting. The underlying case is Oueiss v. Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, No. 1:20-cv-25022 (S.D. Fla.), a case in which plaintiff, an Al Jazeera anchor, alleges a conspiracy to hack, libel, and more. From Bloomberg:

An Al Jazeera news anchor sued the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for allegedly hacking into her phone and stealing and doctoring images to disparage and intimidate her on social media.

Ghada Oueiss claims she was a target of the harassment because of her reporting on human rights abuses, according to her complaint filed on Wednesday [Dec. 9, 2020] in Miami federal court. Her suit names Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE as defendants, as well as other officials and agents of those nations….

Here's an excerpt from the motion to seal:

Given the anticipated difficulties of effecting service on certain Defendants, … Plaintiff has filed the Ex Parte Motion, in which Plaintiff requests the Court's permission to serve MBS [Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud], MBZ, al Bannai, Al Qahtani, Al-Asaker, DarkMatter, MiSK, Zeinab, al Otaibi, Al Menaia, Al-Owerde (together, the "Foreign Defendants") via alternative means pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(f)(3).

In support of the Ex Parte Motion, and for the Court's ease of reference, Plaintiff
intends to file Exhibit "K" to the Declaration of Daniel Rashbaum [D.E. 5-1], which is a chart containing the relevant addresses (physical, email, social media) at which Plaintiff proposes she be permitted to serve each of the Foreign Defendants.

Among the alternative means proposed in the Ex Parte Motion, Plaintiff requests the Court's permission to serve MBS via WhatsApp, and Plaintiff therefore intends to include MBS's WhatsApp number in Exhibit "K."

Given that MBS is the current Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however, his WhatsApp telephone number is highly sensitive information that is not in the public domain….

Plaintiff requests that she be permitted to preserve the confidentiality of MBS's WhatsApp telephone number by filing Exhibit "K" under seal.