Gary McDowell's arguments in "And Strange Notions of Privacy" {op-ed, Sept. 14} are not only strange but the stuff of sheer legal sophistry. He argues that a constitutionally founded right of privacy (1) doesn't exist and (2) if it were found to exist and extrapolated to the limits of logic (his), our society would be awash in unfettered pederasty and other consequences of man's "fallen" nature.

The 1965 Griswold decision wasn't a close vote. That fact, and the soundness of its reasoning, explains its durability as precedent. Had minority residents of this country waited for the caprices of state legislatures to bestow fundamental rights of citizenship, many states would no doubt now have "Jim Crow" laws. So much for Mr. McDowell's "public morality of the community."

The truly arbitrary threats to individual liberties in this country come from overzealous, politically ambitious prosecutors who assume for themselves the mantle of "community values" and embark on hunts for pornography in art galleries or child abusers among whole communities of innocent parents. I'll trust to judicial arbitrariness in the securing of this adult's privacy.

BRIAN T. PETTY Washington

While Judge David Souter was graciously offering us an ''unenumerated right of privacy'' during his confirmation hearings, Gary McDowell was busy educating us on our ''alleged right to privacy.'' What Mr. McDowell has to teach us is most troubling.

Mr. McDowell seems to say that since the right to privacy is ''inherently arbitrary,'' citizens should not be allowed to possess such a right. But how is the concept of privacy in any way less definitive than such concepts as liberty, free speech and religious freedom? Clearly, most legal concepts are ''inherently arbitrary'' -- that is why we have judges to interpret them.

And contrary to Mr. McDowell's suggestions, fundamental rights should not be left to the politics of Congress and the statehouses. That's precisely what the Framers intended to avoid when they created to the Constitution. Clearly, the Constitution was not created to protect the ''public morality of the community'' but rather to protect the individual liberties of all citizens.

In the case of privacy, the burden of proof should lie with the government to prove that its intrusion is both warranted and reasonable. If no truly compelling interest exists for the state to intrude, civil liberties should most assuredly prevail.

The question now is what's the next step that American citizens should take. The answer: a constitutional amendment guaranteeing all citizens an explicit right to privacy. Such an amendment will not eliminate the complexities of interpreting the right to privacy, but it will stop Mr. McDowell and the other strict constructionists from asserting that we do not possess the right at all.

K. SCOTT DERRICK Alexandria