SQL Server 2008 installs in a DISA-compliant environment

If you’re running a SQL Server 2008 install on a server that is compliant with the DISA STIG, you should be aware the certain default administrator permissions are removed.  These permissions are expected by the installer and installation will fail with a cryptic ‘ACCESS DENIED’ error.  You must ensure the administrator account you are using to run the installer has the following permissions:

Local Policy Object Display Name User Right
Backup files and directories SeBackupPrivilege
Debug Programs SeDebugPrivilege
Manage auditing and security log SeSecurityPrivilege

More than likely, these are managed by Group Policy, so you’ll have to get your domain management guys involved to fix the issue.

Reference: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=2000257

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