Despite the defense of U.S. actions by Panetta and Koh, we are uncomfortable stating with any certainty that a covert program is definitively operating within the law. We simply can't verify it independently. So we are refraining from rating Panetta's comment on the Truth-o-Meter.PoltiFact refrained from setting the needle for its cheesy "Truth O Meter" because the claim was unverifiable.
That's a good policy.
In the past--and I suspect the tendency will continue in the future--PolitiFact has boldly executed its ratings based on tentative evidence. For example, PolitiFact rated Nancy Pelosi "False" where additional evidence might (I have my doubts) have supported her. Candidates who make political claims will receive poor ratings if they fail to provide evidence beyond PolitiFact's unknown thresholds.
Would PolitiFact have used the same rating method if the policy was attributable solely to the Bush administration? I think there's a good chance that PolitiFact would have ruled consistently based on its evidence. The responsibility would kick back to experts in academia and at think-tanks.
So ... would experts at the universities have offered different interview responses depending on the degree of sympathy with the administration's politics?
When possible, we go to original sources to verify the claims. We look for original government reports rather than news stories. We interview impartial experts.
(politifact.com, ironic URL added)