WASHINGTON (MCT) — Setting up a showdown with the White House, the Senate on Wednesday passed an intelligence bill that would forbid the use of the widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding.

President Bush promised to veto legislation that included such language after the House incorporated a provision prohibiting waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques when lawmakers passed the conference report authorizing the intelligence bill in December.

The White House reiterated its opposition to the bill after the Senate vote.

"For a number of reasons, the president's advisers would recommend a veto of this bill," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "Parts of this bill are inconsistent with the effective conduct of intelligence-gathering."

The Senate vote marks the latest step in an escalating confrontation between Democrats and the Bush administration over the legal and moral authority of using waterboarding, an interrogation tactic that makes the subject believe he is in imminent danger of drowning.

Last week, CIA Director Michael Hayden confirmed that waterboarding was used on the purported mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as two other alleged terrorists. Hayden later said it is not clear waterboarding is now legal. The tactic is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, and most of the international community considers it torture.

Human rights groups applauded the Senate vote and called on Bush to sign the bill.

Presidential candidates Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as well as Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., were on the campaign trail and missed the vote. McCain, a former prisoner of war, has said he believes waterboarding is torture. Obama has repeatedly called waterboarding torture, and Clinton wrote a letter to Bush earlier this week urging him to back off his veto pledge.

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