The two recent reports on U.S. military abuses of prisoners show the limits of Pentagon-appointed investigations for such a controversial issue. Both the Schlesinger commission and the internal Army review contain important and disturbing information on the torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Yet both reports shy away from the logical conclusion: High-level military and civilian officials must be fully investigated for their role in the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

The two recent reports on U.S. military abuses of prisoners show the limits of Pentagon-appointed investigations for such a controversial issue. Both the Schlesinger commission and the internal Army review contain important and disturbing information on the torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Yet both reports shy away from the logical conclusion: High-level military and civilian officials must be fully investigated for their role in the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

The reports do a fine job of detailing the abuses and the context in which they occurred. The Schlesinger report also considers the internal administration memos in which the mistreatment of prisoners was contemplated and justified. But there is a failure to connect these policy discussions with the actual practices on the ground. Instead of creating pressure on the government to take the next steps, the reports may be used to justify putting the matter to rest while some low-ranking soldiers are brought before courts-martial.

The Bush administration's response to the reports is one clue. According to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "the president believes that those who committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib should be punished." But this isn't about a few bad apples any more. Left unsaid is what should be done about the administration officials, lawyers and military officers who drafted the memos that overturned longstanding U.S. military rules and practice and created the environment in which abusing prisoners became permissible.

What is needed is an independent commission like the highly regarded 9/11 Commission. Such a commission would be able to shed full light on the U.S. treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. It would hold hearings, have full subpoena power to call witnesses and be empowered to recommend a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal offenses. Among other things, the commission could examine the link between the government's policy discussions and memos and the actual practices at detention facilities.

The recent investigations into military abuses should be welcomed as a start—not an end—to seriously addressing the role of U.S. officials in torture and ill-treatment.

James Ross is senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch.