Unlike the plurality of Democrats who as recently as 2007 believed George W. Bush knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance, there is no traction among conservatives for the theory that Barack Obama or his administration had actual knowledge of the Undie-bomber plot beforehand.

But the “what did he know, and when did he know it” paradigm is getting some traction as more information leaks out:

  • We know that the bomber’s father contacted the U.S. Embassy to report his son’s radicalization, and there are many other factors indicating that the dots as to this specific individual existed, even if no one put them together.
  • An anonymous senior administration source volunteered to Newsweek that Obama received an intelligence briefing three days before Christmas on terrorist threats, and that “Yemen” was not mentioned. The source refused to leak what was mentioned. How convenient to leak this tidbit about what was not mentioned to try to control the story.
  • Now it is reported, again by Newsweek, that a senior administration official was briefed (pun intended) on the underwear bomb technique after an attempt to use it in Saudi Arabia.

So what did Obama and/or administration officials know, and when did they know it? If we knew all bits of information about this individual, the Yemen problem, and the bomb technique, how did we not take preventative measures?

It is interesting that Obama now is taking an unusually aggressive posture, after mostly silence for several days, pointing out that the attack was planned in Yemen and that there will be retaliation.

Something sparked this rather dramatic change in tone. In the past few days, Obama undoubtedly has received multiple after-action briefings dissecting what went wrong.

Given what has leaked, and what has been disclosed publicly, it seems pretty clear that the answer to “who knew what and when” is not going to be favorable to the administration generally, and to Obama specifically. Again, not that someone knew of this actual plot, but rather, that someone or some collection of people knew the facts which under other circumstances would have alerted them to the danger.

The momentum is there, even if few have said it yet. The inexorable force of human nature is pushing us towards this inevitable question:

Was this administration so distracted by the all-consuming health care battle that it took its collective eye off the terrorist ball?

So why don’t we just get it out in the open and ask it already?

Update 1-3-2010: Told ya so (h/t to a commenter):

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) on Sunday revived his assault against the White House’s approach to counter-terrorism, charging the president was too “distracted by other things” to focus intently enough on national security.

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