The Star Tribune is suing the U.S. Department of Defense to get it to release records related to military leaders' communications with Minnesota in response to the civil unrest that followed George Floyd's 2020 murder.

The federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed this month in District Court in Minnesota, alleges that the department "has improperly withheld all records responsive" to the Star Tribune's request for documentation of "communications among the Office of the Minnesota Governor, Minnesota National Guard, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" regarding the federal government's interaction and support to Minnesota during the period.

The complaint points out that the Department of Defense prepared to deploy military police units to Minnesota on May 30 — days after Floyd's May 25 killing — at the request of Gov. Tim Walz.

"While Governor Walz and the Pentagon confirmed that the Governor was speaking with then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, the extent of those conversations is unknown," attorney Leita Walker wrote in the Sept. 2 civil complaint.

A Department of Defense spokesperson said Wednesday that the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Star Tribune editor James Shiffer submitted the FOIA request to the department on Oct. 31, 2020, seeking "all records and communications, including but not limited to emails and call logs, between the office of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota National Guard with the offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from May 25, 2020 to June 1, 2020."

The department sent an acknowledgment letter on Dec. 4, 2020, and stated that "due to unspecified unusual circumstances" it would not respond to Shiffer's request within 20 days. Walker wrote that the Star Tribune attempted to follow up on the request's status in January, June and November of last year and again in March.

According to the lawsuit, the department has yet to produce any records in response to the request, nor has it informed the Star Tribune of the scope of the records it can produce. It has likewise not disclosed any timetable for when it would furnish the requested information and has not informed the Star Tribune about the scope of any records that it would withhold pursuant to exemptions.

The Star Tribune is asking the judge to find that the department has violated FOIA and order that the newspaper is "entitled to immediately receive the documents referenced" in the lawsuit. It is also asking the judge to issue an injunction "directing DOD to produce all of the requested agency records in full and setting a deadline for compliance."