The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into allegations that a CIA official in the Bush administration was asked to gather personal information on a prominent critic of the Iraq War in order to discredit and “get” him, I’m told.

“The Committee is looking into this,” Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the intel committee, said in a statement sent my way. “Depending on what we find, we may take further action.”

The news comes after the New York Times reported yesterday that former CIA official Glenn Carle, a top counterterrorism official during the Bush administration, had gone on the record with this allegation. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council made clear to him in 2005 that he wanted Carle to collect info about University of Michigan professor and blogger Juan Cole.

Carle said that his supervisor had asked him: “What might we know about him? Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?” Carle also said his supervisor had told him: “The White House wants to get him.”

Carle argued at the time that so doing would be unlawful, the Times reported.

The CIA and the supervisor, David Low, denied the allegations.

Cole reacted angrily to the news, arguing that the allegations showed that the White House was willing to use the CIA to silence and intimidate someone who “contradicted the propaganda efforts of the administration” to sell the war as a success story. He called for the Senate and House intelligence committees to “immediately launch an investigation of this clear violation of the law.”

Judging from Senator Feinstein’s quote, the scope and goals of this initial effort to look into the story are unclear, but at a minimum, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are now taking a first step in that direction. This could also force a public relitigation of the Bush administration’s efforts to sell the Iraq War to the public — a topic that is likely to stir intense passions on both sides.

UPDATE: I should have been clearer that the probe is being done by the whole Senate Intelligence Committee, not just Democrats. I’ve edited the above to correct.