Esquire has a great article on civilian security contractors in Iraq. I used to represent some of these guys over here. They are as bad ass as this article makes them out to be.
My client at the time had the contract to provide construction security services for U.S. Embassies. Essentially, while the Marines guarded the base proper, my clients employees would guard any construction sites at the embassy as well as inspect and secure all building materials (and review building plans) It was pretty specialized work and historically required lots of super special secret security clearances. My client was a former marine special forces type . . . as were all his employees. He also had a number of former SeaBees and Army Corps engineer types on his staff.
Anyway, near the end of the Clinton Administration Madeline Albright designated a new contracting officer for this division and this guy (an african american fellow) decided that when the contract was renewed he would give it to someone with no security clearance or security experience (outside of providing rent a cop security for a local shopping center). In fact, he awarded it to a company that up to that point had provided janitorial and lunch room services for schools. His sole basis was that they were a minority contractor (and he assumed an air of moral racial superiority over my otherwise pigment challenged client). Of course, he was also good friends with the owner.
We challenged the award, had it thrown out, and then the same guy (with the permission of Albrights office) decided to change the contract requirements so that possession of security clearances were not required and the minimum experience factor dropped from 5-10 years to 1 year for non supervisory positions. We again challenged them, but lost in the court of federal claims based solely on the State Department wrapping itself in the American flag. The courts opinion was clearly wrong, but by that time, the client wasn't really interested in this contact anymore and had better things to pursue with his time, so we never properly appealed it.
Oh well, it would have been fun. To the best of my knowledge, btw, Heritage Services still has the construction security contract (though it should be coming up for renewal in a year or two).
Update: Someone asked why I mentioned the contracting officer was african american. Good point. I mentioned it because he decided to make the contract a minority set aside contract, a line I originally left out of the post. Nothing else was to be inferred from it. I've actually updated and corrected the error in this post. Unlike the New York Times I actually encourage commentary and am willing to correct my mistakes.