Many skeptics became amateur detectives or scholarly researchers. It wasn’t long before they discovered the neo-conservatives’ 2000 tract Rebuilding America’s Defenses and its shattering message that for the United States to dominate the world—especially with its “vital interests” (aka oil) in the Middle East—a “new Pearl Harbor” might be necessary and would boost its state-of-the-art defense systems. For historians and political experts around the world, that finding set off uneasy parallels between 9/11 and the Bush Administration and the 1933 Reichstag fire and Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. 
Structural engineers, architects, scientists and those in fire science were unsatisfied with the first investigation about the collapses done by FEMA in 2002—and began to say so at professional meetings and in classrooms. Its cursory report on WTC 1 and 2 had ended at the point of impact and blamed collapses on fire melting the buildings’ steel framing. They hedged on No. 7: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.”
Both FEMA and, then, NIST acknowledged that no steel-framed high-rise building—12 to 110 stories—had ever collapsed because of fire, but insisted the WTC collapses were “firsts.” This claim flies in the face of fire history for high-rises, known for a century by engineers, architects, and builders. That includes the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 in the 12-story iron-and-steel framed Asch Building, now a New York University classroom structure. Or that 1933 Reichstag fire which gutted the interior, but the steel frame and stone exterior survived even World War II’s carpet bombings. Or that foggy Saturday morning in 1945 when a B-25 hit the Empire State Building and fired the 78th, 79th and basement. Or Madrid’s 2005 Windsor inferno that gutted a 32-story office building after a two-day blaze—temperatures reaching 1,432ºF. Its steel-reinforced concrete frame and rebar-reinforced concrete columns held firm for 17 floors and even retaining a crane on the roof doing repairs. 
Fires, no matter how hot, do not melt steel in columns, beams, or flooring. Metallurgists have estimated the melting point of the structural steel alloy used in the WTC complex ranged from 2,500ºF to 2,800ºF. FEMA did not venture an estimate on the fires’ maximum temperatures. But NIST did in the 2005 report on WTC 1 and 2: a maximum of 1,837ºF. WTC 7 burned for seven hours, ample time for firefighters to ascertain temperatures. Researchers either didn’t ask them for that information or ignored it. 
Incredibly, NIST’s 2008 report on No. 7 relied on guesses about the combustible “loading” on the 11th and 12th floor from a pair of 13th floor tenants, two American Express managers who were not just qualified to render such a judgment, but were not in the building. Even more remarkable for a multi-million-dollar, supposedly scientific/technological study, NIST resorted to a computer simulation of the fires that placed the range between 392ºF to 1,652ºF. As if software could emulate actual conditions. 
Worse for FEMA/NIST researchers, near the end of their study, a mid-afternoon seven-hour, seven-alarm blaze broke out on August 18, 2007 in the 41-story, steel-framed Deutsche Bank building across the street from the WTC 2 site. Opened a year after the Towers (1974), it was built under most of the same codes. It was undergoing floor-by-floor dismantling after six years of being shrouded from heavy 9/11 damage. 
By the time dismantling had reached the 26th floor, a departing worker on the 17th floor reportedly flung a cigarette into debris. It set off a conflagration that involved 70 fire companies and caused two firefighters’ deaths. The fire was fed by oxygen pouring into open areas and air shafts and raged through the 13th to 18th floors. Like WTC 7, water was initially unavailable, but not because of a broken water main. Firefighters faced a vandalized standpipe and, unlike those at WTC 7, found other water sources. Despite its flaming ordeal, the bank remained standing. The official verdict was: “Buildings inspectors and forensic engineers have determined that the building is structurally sound and not in danger of collapse.”
Back in spring 2003, the Bush Administration apparently hoped the FEMA report and the attack and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan would divert public attention from the WTC collapses. Those hopes now were dashed by a massive body of evidence about 9/11 being spread around the globe that neither aircraft nor fires could have caused the collapses.
Increasing suspicions about the government’s growing ferocious secrecy about 9/11 triggered a small publishing industry (Michael Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon, David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor, etc.). Filmmakers began making DVD documentaries (Loose Change, 9/11 Revisited). Accusatory T-shirts appeared (“9/11 Was an Inside Job”), followed by the start of hundreds of 9/11 Truth groups and professional organizations (Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Pilots for 9/11 Truth, Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, etc). Such interest launched a speaker circuit of experts from the scientific, technological, and military fields. None attributed collapses to fire. They championed an array of far more likely causes ranging from planned implosions using thermate or fissionable compounds to missiles and directed-energy weaponry. 
It didn’t help that the Bush Administration had inexplicably stalled off for months the public’s outcry for a definitive investigation, especially the Jersey Girls. They were unafraid of hounding the President and Congress for action. Congress finally set up a low-budget (initially, $14 million) 9/11 Commission with the curious order not to blame anyone for the attacks except terrorists. The Commission had no power to demand witnesses be sworn, including President Bush with Vice President Cheney at his elbow. Worse for objectivity, commissioners were chiefly loyal Administration “insiders.” None were drawn from the ranks of science or technology professionals. Work was largely done by an obedient 75-member staff of which more than half were former employees of the CIA, FBI, and Justice Department. They took nearly two years to produce a 567-paged report in 2004 that offered little to explain the collapse causes, and even failed to mention WTC 7. 
Co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton were faced with lying and/or uncooperative witnesses, angry politicians, outspoken pro-Bush cohorts, White House obstruction and penury, contradictory testimony, and mountains of vital documents classified. Small wonder that they finally admitted being “set up to fail” in preventing both a White House whitewash and cover-up on accountability. 
When the report appeared, a firestorm of doubt and protests erupted from legions of professionals and lay experts—and the Jersey Girls. They found it significantly incomplete, biased, and deceitful. Accusations began that the Bush Administration used 9/11 as a pretext invading, occupying, and terrorizing Iraq out of its vast oil reserves and for shredding the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of civil liberties.
As for the Administration, after doubts had been raised about FEMA’s 2002, it tossed the credibility problem to NIST to establish legitimacy to their “official” story with an in-depth scientific and engineering study—on FEMA’s budget. Because its researchers and consultants apparently valued federal contracts and/or careers, they seemed to pick up on the Administration cues about preordained results about the collapse causes—and obeyed. Fire destroyed WTC 1 and 2. 
Its verdict about fire was to bring incredulity and even scorn from peers, but a lawsuit from a former professor of mechanical engineering at a major university. The Request for Correction by Judy Wood, Ph.D. charged NIST with “…fraud and deception, and shows clear evidence that the entire WTC [complex] was destroyed by directed energy weaponry (DEW).” After all, it was highly unusual that the Towers had left little rubble except cladding and had been largely reduced to curb-high dust. DEWs’ volcano-like energy forced molecules to burst apart and become dust when targeting steel, concrete, and combustibles. “Dustification” had occurred, she said. 
WTC 7 was a 47-story building, privately built in 1985 and owned by real-estate tycoon Larry Silverstein. He’d only been leaseholder for the rest of the WTC complex for less than two weeks on 9/11. It was not attacked, but like the 8-story WTC 6 directly across the street, had withstood a torrent of fiery debris on its roof from WTC 1. On the late afternoon of 9/11 both BBC and CNN reporters announced No. 7 had collapsed although it was visible over their shoulders. At 5:20 p.m., it collapsed in 6.5-seconds into its foundation. It left a five-story pile of rubble, including pools of molten metal that were to burn for weeks. 
Despite its spectacular visual demise, it suffered an immediate blackout from mainstream media. The 9/11 Commission report never mentioned it. Until 2006 when it “starred” in the video 9/11 Revisited: Scientific and Ethical Questions, most Americans were unaware that a third WTC skyscraper had been destroyed indicating just how successful the blackout was.